Environment of Earth

February 27, 2008


Filed under: Environment — gargpk @ 2:35 pm
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Land area on earth is generally covered either by forests or grasses/crops. Both these types of vegetations create and maintain specific microclimates within the plant cover that has characteristic differences from the general environment/climate of the area. The plant cover of an area determines many characteristics of the microclimate. In turn, that particular microclimate may maintain the specific plant cover despite changes in the overall macroclimate of the region. This interdependence of microclimate and plant cover is particularly observed in some regions of the globe where ancient types of forests are still present although macroclimate of the region has changed and become unsuitable for those forest types e.g. rainforest on latosols. Deforestation in such areas destroys the fine balance of microclimate and vegetation. Consequently, regeneration of such forest becomes either impossible or extremely slow. General microclimatic effects of grass/crop cover and forest cover in an area are discussed below in brief.

Microclimate within short grass/crop cover
Generalized effects of green grass/crop cover about one metre or so high are as follows:

Temperature: In the early after noon, temperature maximum is just below the crown where maximum energy absorption is occurring. Temperature is usually lower near the soil surface where heat flows into the soil. During night time, the crop cools mainly by long-wave emission and by some continued transpiration producing a temperature minimum at about 2/3rd the height of the crop cover.. Under calm conditions, a temperature inversion may form just above the crop cover.
Wind speed: The velocity of wind is minimum in the upper crop canopy where foliage is most dense. There is marked increase in the wind velocity above this level while it is only slightly increased below this level.
Water vapour: The concentration of water vapour is maximum at about 2/3rd of the crop height where canopy is most dense due to maximum diurnal evotranspiration rate there.
CO2 concentration: Carbon dioxide is absorbed during the day for photosynthesis by the leaves. Therefore, its concentration is minimum at about 2/3rd of crop height where canopy is densest. During the night, CO2 concentration is minimum at that height because its absorption for photosynthesis stops while its evolution due to respiration by leaves continues.

Microclimate within forest cover
Microclimatic effects within a forest cover are explained in terms of:
Morphological characteristics: such as branching (bifurcation), growth periodicity (evergreen or deciduous), size, density, texture, orientation of leaves and height of trees;
Plant coverage: reflected by the density and distribution of dominant life forms and
Stratification of vegetation: reflected in he number of strata, height of different strata and morphological characteristics of each stratum.
Different forest types have different spatial organizations and so their effects on microclimate. For example, tropical and temperate forests may be compared for important characteristics as below:

Characteristic Tropical forest Temperate forest
Average height of tall trees 46-55 m (upto 60 m) 30 m
Species diversity 40-100 species/hectare >20 species/hectare
Stratification Strong with dense undergrowth; Continuous from low
unbranched tree trunks; shrubs to top of trees
usually two upper foliage strata
with lower strata more dense

Generalized microclimatic effects within a forest cover may be described as below:

Modification of energy transfers

The canopy of a forest cover significantly changes the pattern of incoming and outgoing radiation that is reflected mainly as;

Change in albedo: Albedo of a coniferous forest is about 8-14%, of deciduous forest is about 12-18% while that of a savannah or woodland is even more.

Change in energy trapped: The type of plants, density of foliage and pattern of foliage orientation are important in changing the amount of energy trapped within the canopy and the percentage of energy reaching the ground within a forest cover. For example, dense Fagus sylatica forest traps 80% of incoming radiation within the top layer of trees and less than 5% reaches the ground. Such energy trapping is more pronounced on sunny days.

Change in absorption of short-wave radiation: Absorption and reflection of shortwave radiation depends somewhat on the density and characteristics of the trees. Generally more UV radiation is absorbed by forest canopy than infrared radiation. For example, in the tropical forests of Nigeria, forest floor receives only 7.6% of 0.5 μm radiation while 45.3% of <0.6 μm radiation.

Change in penetration of light: Penetration of solar radiation within a canopy generally obeys Bouguer-Lambert law I = Ioe-KL (where, I = radiation intensity on a horizontal plane within the canopy; Io = radiation intensity on a horizontal plane above the canopy; L = leaf area index & K = extinction coefficient)

The value of K is constant for a given species and is related to leaf chlorophyll content, canopy reflectivity and canopy architecture. The value shows inverse relation to the chlorophyll content and reflectivity of leaves and lies between 0.3 and 0.5 for grass type canopies and approaches 1.0 for nearly horizontal leaves. As a result of these factors, intensity of radiation generally decreases exponentially downwards within a canopy reaching very low values at the ground level.

In general, light penetration within a forest cover depends upon the type of trees, spacing, time of the year, age of plants, crown density and tree height. In some major types of evergreen forests, the amount of light reaching the ground level is as below:

Birch-Beach forest- 50-75%

Pine forest- 20-40%

Spruce & Fir forest- 10-25%

Tropical forest- 0.1-0.01%

In the deciduous forests, light penetration increases during leafless period.

Light penetration also depends on the age of trees as it controls both the crown cover and the height of trees. In a Pinus sylvestris forest in Germany, the amount of light reaching ground level was 50% at 1.3 years of tree age, only 7% at 20 years age and again 35% at 130 years of age.

Thus, the plant cover in a forest maintains a complex, temporally changing vertical stratification of downwards decreasing light intensities. This provides a variety of light intensity niches for the plants of different light intensity requirements within the forest cover.

Modification of air flow
A wind profile develops within the canopy of a plant cover develops due to steady-state boundary layer flow. It is logarithmic above the canopy while becomes exponential within the canopy. The zero plane displacement (D) depends on he height of plants. The roughness height (zo), a measure of community roughness is effectively the thickness of a laminar sub-layer through which individuala elements project. Its value is related to the height, variation and spacing of individual elements i.e. plants and their parts. In extrapolation downwards of the logarithmic curve, the zero velocity intercept lies at the height (D+zo). If canopy were rigid, it would have a constant value but in the canopy, variation of surface roughness depends on the leaf flutter, branch movement and leaf streamlining. These variations cause variations of zo with wind speed. The surface frictional characteristics are entirely specified by D and zo.

Generally, lateral air movement is lesser within a canopy than the outside. Even large variations in outside wind velocities do not affect airflow inside forest cover. The wind velocity within the canopy also does not show strong change during day and night but overall wind speed is higher during daytime due to convectional effects.

In temperate and tropical forests reduction in wind speed is different due to different canopy structure, vertical stratification, density of stand i.e. tree spacing and season. From outer edge towards deep into the forest, the outside wind velocity was reduced within an European temperate forest by 20-40% at 30 m, 50% at 60 m and 93% at 120 m. Inside a Brazilean evergreen forest, outside wind velocity of 2.2 m per second was reduced to 0.5 m per second at 100 m and to negligible at 1000 m. In this forest, the outside storm velocity of 28 m per second was reduced to 2 m per second some 11 km deep inside the forest.

Modification of air temperature
The forest cover influences the air temperature within it due to complex interaction amongst a variety of factors such as sheltering from sun, blanketing at night, heat loss by evotranpiration, reduction in wind speed, obstruction to vertical air flow etc.

During daytime heating of leaf canopy causes a convectional transfer of sensible heat and the air temperature within the upper canopy may be higher than above the canopy or below it. At night, the relationship is reversed because the layer of air in upper canopy is being cooled by contact with leaves that are losing heat both by radiation and slow transpiration.

Blanketing causes lower maximum and higher minimum temperatures during daytime, particularly during periods of high summer temperatures.

High evotranspiration depresses daily maximum temperatures and causes lower mean monthly temperatures in tropical and temperate forests. In temperate forest at sea level, mean monthly temperature from the outside may reach 2.2o C in summer but only 0.1o C in winter. In very hot summers, the difference may be more than 2.8oC. In the forests that do not transpire greatly e.g. forteto oak maquis of Mediterranean, the high day temperatures within the woods may cause mean monthly temperatures to be higher than in the open.

Elevation (altitude) in the same climatic zone may affect the degree of temperature decrease in the temperate forest. At 1000 m altitude, lowering of mean temperatures in temperate forest may be twice that at sea level.

Vertical stratification structure modifies the thermal profile within a forest in complex ways. In tropical forests, dense canopy heats up much during the day and rapidly cools at night showing a greater diurnal temperature range than the lower strata. Daily maximum temperatures of second story are intermediate between those of the tree-tops and undergrowth. On the other hand, nocturnal minima are higher than either tree-tops or undergrowth because the second story is insulated by the air trapped both above and below it.

Modification of precipitation
The influence of forest cover on the precipitation is a complex problem. The amount of rainfall in an area mainly depends upon the water vapour brought from the oceans by the winds. In the regions of favourable conditions of atmospheric circulation, the plant cover increases the roughness of Earth’s surface. It also intensifies water exchange over the forest by adding substantial amounts of transpired water vapour to the oceanic water vapour. These two factors intensify vertical air currents and thus cause increase in total precipitation over the area than would be possible by oceanic water exchange only. Proportion of such local precipitation in the total precipitation has been estimated to be 44.75% in Asia, 29.58% in Europe and Africa, 40.5% in S. America, 39.0% in N. America and 39.0% in Australia.

At the microclimatic level, orographic effect of increased lifting and turbulence due to forest cover may be 1-3% in the temperate regions. In Germany, a 6% mean annual increase in precipitation has been reported after afforestation with greatest increase occurring during drier months. In the areas of heavy fogs, the forest canopy can filter the fog from air to an extent that the negative interception may occur resulting in increased precipitation within the forest cover. Winter rainfall outside a Eucalyptus forest in Australia was 50 c while inside the forest it was 60 cm.

Modification of humidity
Establishment of saturation vapour pressure and consequently, a humidity profile depends largely on the wind velocity profile within a plant cover. In addition, saturation vapour pressure profile also shows close correspondence with the temperature profile, both during day and night. Actual vapour pressure at night reaches almost saturation as air and the forest canopy are cooled through radiation and convection. Some water vapour is transferred through transpiration from the canopy. During daytime, upper canopy is air-heated through convection and water vapour pressure cure shifts much from the saturation curve. Deficit between the two increases downwards but at quite lower level, the actual vapour pressure curve inflects. Towards the bottom of canopy it again approaches saturation curve due to transpiration coupled with low air movement and low temperature there.

In general, humidity conditions are very much different within the plant cover than the outside mainly depending on evotranspiration characteristics of the cover. Evotranspiration depends mainly on the type of plant cover, density of plants, vertical stratification structure and temperature, time of the day and season. It generally increases with the density of vegetation and relative humidity within the cover may be 3-10% higher than the outside, especially during summers. Rainforests have high transpiration and, therefore, generally higher humidity within them. Within temperate forests the mean annual excess of relative humidity is 9.4% in beech, 8.6% in Picea abies, 7.9% in larch and 3.9% in Pinus sylvestris forests. In the tropical forests, there is complete saturation during night while humidity shows decrease with height during the day. Temperatures within the forests differ strikingly from the outside. The vapour pressure within an oak stand was found to be higher than outside for every month except December.

Modification of carbon-dioxide in air
A profile of atmospheric CO2 is found within a plant cover. This profile shows much diurnal variation due to photosynthetic uptake of CO2 during the day. The concentration of CO2 in the soil is very low and its use by plants is spatially and temporally very heterogeneous.

During the day, CO2-concentration decreases from upper canopy towards the ground. It reaches a maximum point near the middle of canopy. Below this point, CO2-concentration rapidly increases towards ground becoming equal to CO2-concentration outside the canopy at a level roughly corresponding with compensation light intensity. CO2-concentration reaches fairly high level at the soil surface. Thus the CO2-concentration profile is formed due to f photosynthetic depletion in upper canopy, equilibrium corresponding to compensation point lower in the canopy and addition of respiratory CO2 from soil microbes, shaded lower leaves and roots. During the night, CO2-concentration gradually increases towards ground level due to respiratory additions.

Plant cover and soil
Soils are formed by mixture of weathered rock material with the organic matter derived from decomposition of mostly plant litter. The role of plant cover in pedogenesis and determination of the soil type of an area is clear from the fact that all zonal soil types correspond to specific types of plant covers.

Tundra soils
Rock tundra is associated with isolated patches of lichens and mosses with occasional higher plants. Tundra moor is associated with peat-forming mosses mainly Polytrichum sp., lichens like Cladonia sp. Or Cetraria sp., grasses like Carex, Eriophorum, herbs like Potentilla, Ranunculus, Gentiana, Saxiraga, Dryas octapetala, shrubs and trees like Betula nana, Salix herbacea, S. reticulata, S. arctica and heathers like Empetrum nigrum, Cassiope tetragonal.

Iron-humus podsol develops under heathland with Ericaceous dominants while iron-podsol develops under coniferous forests. Podsolization is strongly influenced by the type of vegetation. Certain species hasten podsolization e.g. Ericaceous heath Calluna vulgaris and Erica cinerea that usually occupy cleared forests on acid brown soil. Some conifers and Fagus sylvatica and Quercus sp. In Britain and Populus trichocarpa in Alaska are strong acidifiers. Sphagnum sp., Eriophorum sp., and Molineae caerulea form blanket peat, forming peat podsol or peaty-gley.

Brown forest soils
Very high productivity of broad-leaved summer forests plays considerable part in the pedogenesis of brown forest soils by maintaining quite high activity of soil microorganisms and sol fauna, particularly earthworms.

In North Europe, clearing of broad-leaved forests present on acid brown soils that had developed on siliceous parent material resulted in the establishment of Ericaceous heath lands. This hastened podsolization in those areas. These podsols are being maintained today by burning and felling of trees along with maintenance of heath-land. In absence of such interference, Calluna-Erica heath-land is easily replaced first by bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) and then by conifers. These plants bring back the podsol soil to acid brown soil.

In the absence of normal forest, the brown forest soils can be maintained under grass cover because much organic matter is returned to the soil by extensive root system. However, inorganic fertilizers are needed even then. If land is under crop cultivation, both inorganic and organic fertilizers are needed to maintain the soil.

Red & brown soils of arid subtropics
The soils in arid subtropics formerly had luxuriant vegetation of Quercus ilex and Pinus halpensis. However, overgrazing in the areas of brown soils on limestone in Europe resulted in sparse vegetation of low trees causing conversion of brown soils (Terra fusca) to red soils (Terra rosa). Brown soils in many areas still have comparatively better sclerophyllous cover. Afforestation on red soils protects them from summer solar insolation and changes them to brown soils again.

Other red and brown soils
While red brown soils develop under subtropical dry forests, red-yellow soils develop under subtropical forests and red laterite soils under tropical forsts. Brown and grey soils are developed under deciduous forests, grey-brown soils under semi-desert or desert scrub forests and chestnut brown soils under steppe.

The plant cover and the cycling of nutrients are intricately interlinked with each other in the ecosystem. Nutrient cycling and biomass normally reach equilibrium under climax conditions. External influences, particularly destruction of plant cover may break this cycling and disrupt this equilibrium causing deterioration of the environment. For example, in North Europe, destruction of deciduous forest cover by human activities during Late Stone Age and Bronze Age caused loss of nutrients from the upper layers of soil. The deteriorated soil caused establishment of heath-lands on them. These heath-lands are presently maintaining and are being maintained by reduced nutrient cycling from the upper layers of soils only. In the tropical areas, laterite soils (latosols) have very deep crusts of weathering and are greatly leached of nutrients. However, rain forests of ancient geological ages on these soils provide rich vegetation of great biomass in which most of the ecosystem nutrients are locked up. Despite poor nutrient availability in the soils in these tropical rain forests, such forests are presently being maintained in these areas only due to highly efficient nutrient cycling from the upper layers of the soil. The huge amount of plant organic matter from the vegetation falling on the soil decomposes and provides nutrients to the plants again.

In the soil under a forest cover, the absorption of several nutrients from the deeper layers initially reduces their availability but the return of these nutrients with fall of litter again increases and maintains their availability in the upper layers of the soil. This effect is particularly marked for Mg and Ca. The efficiency of nutrient cycling is greatest in rain forests followed by deciduous forests, coniferous forests and grasslands in that order. Coniferous forests return 50-100 kg/ha/yr of ash elements while deciduous forests may return 200-270 kg/ha/yr. The return of Ca in the rain forests is 200-300 kg/ha/yr while in deciduous forests is only 150 kg/ha/yr.

The soil structure is also greatly affected by the plant cover because roots of plants have a direct influence in maintaining the rhizosphere bacteria whose capsular slimes and gums stabilize the soil crumbs. Rhizosphere zone in the soil provides nearly ideal conditions for both aggregate formation and aggregate stabilization by incorporation of bacterially synthesized macromolecules. In the grassland cover, rapid aggregate promotion is certainly due to rapid and prolific root production of these plants.

The plant cover also influences soil fauna and consequently, the soil structure. In the forest mull soils, the plant cover provides litter that promotes and maintains rich earthworm population in the soil. In these soils, earthworms create pore space through voided casts that are stabilized initially by fungal growth and later by cementation with bacterially produced polysaccharide macromolecules.


Filed under: Environment — gargpk @ 2:10 pm

Until recently studies of causes underlying changes in climate were made difficult by the absence of a corresponding physical theory. However, in recent years, numerical models of climate theory including the semi-empirical theory of atmospheric thermal regimes have significantly contributed to the studies of causes underlying climatic changes.

Quantitative data concerning climatic conditions in the distant past are not very reliable. Therefore, study of the causes of climatic changes in Prequaternary period is quite difficult while that of Quaternary period is relatively more reliable.

Prequaternary period

The study of the causes of climatic change during Prequaternary period can only be limited to an examination of the secular trend of air temperature during second half of the Mesozoic era and the Tertiary period. Palaeotemperatures determined through the method of isotopic analysis can be reliably used in such studies. In has been established from the studies of palaeotemperatures that during the last 130 million years there has been a tendency for average air temperatures at the Earth’s surface to decline. This tendency was interrupted several times by perceptible increases in air temperature but these were always followed by periods of cooling and did not alter the overall course of climate evolution. In order to explain the changes in climatic conditions, consideration of the influence of fluctuations in the composition of atmosphere and in the structure of the Earth’s surface on the thermal regime is necessary.

1. Effect of atmospheric carbon dioxide on thermal regime of atmosphere

Since carbon dioxide influences the absorption of long-wave radiation, thus sustaining the atmospheric green-house effect, a reduction in its mass produces a decline in air temperature at Earth’s surface. It has been established that only for relatively low concentrations (<0.1%) the dependence of temperature on the concentration of carbon dioxide becomes perceptible. At higher concentrations, changes in the volume of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere influence air temperature insignificantly. As a result, only during Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs the reductions in the atmospheric carbon dioxide content have produced considerable changes in air temperature. Calculations based on semi-empirical theory of thermal regime have shown that during that period the average air temperature at the Earth’s surface has declined by several degrees.

2. Effect of structure of Earth’s surface on thermal regime of atmosphere

During the second half of Mesozoic epoch of Tertiary period, the average elevation of continents was relatively low. As a result, a large part of continental plateform was covered by shallow seas. During that time a large number of uplifts and sinkings of different continental areas occurred but this did not alter the overall pattern in which straights and seas of various sizes separated various continents.

During Neogene epoch of Tertiary period, intensive tectonic movements produced the elevation of continents and caused a gradual vanishing of many intercontinental seas. Particularly, the sea on the present-day tertiary of Western Siberia that linked tropical oceans with the polar basin ceased to exist. This resulted in transformation of Arctic Ocean into its today’s condition of a relatively isolated body of water that is linked only with Atlantic Ocean and poorly connected to Pacific Ocean through the very narrow Bering Strait.

Possibly the slow drift of Antarctic was completed during the Tertiary period. It is presumed that such changes in the structure of Earth’s surface produced substantial decline in meridonial heat exchanges in the oceans. Such reductions in meridonial flows of heat in oceans resulting from increases in the levels of continents have contributed to the reduction in temperatures that have taken place at middle and high latitudes during the last 100-150 million years.

The reasons why the temperatures fluctuate over intervals extending to tens of millions of years is an interesting problem. It may be assumed that cause was local changes in circulation processes in the atmosphere and oceans.

Quaternary period

The Quaternary period was preceded by a prolonged evolution of climate in the direction of a more pronounced thermal zonality resulting from changes in Earth’s surface structure. This was largely expressed in a continual decline in air temperature at middle and high latitude. Peculiar climatic conditions during Quaternary period appear to have emerged due to further decline in concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and also due to drifts and elevation of continents.

1. Effect of decline in atmospheric Carbon dioxide

During Pliocene epoch, climatic conditions began to be influenced by a reduction in the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Such reduction led to a decline in average global air temperature by 2o to 3o C ( 3o to 5o C at high latitudes). This resulted in development and extension of polar ice caps which in turn, caused further decline in average global temperature, particularly at higher latitudes.

2. Effect of shifts and elevation of continents

Development of polar ice caps sharply increased the sensitivity of thermal regime to even very small changes in climate-forming factors. This made possible the very large oscillations in the boundaries of snow and ice covers on land and in oceans as a result of changes in the location of land in relation to the Sun; earlier this factor had not influenced the climate substantially.

Continuos reduction in atmospheric CO2 contributed to the advance of glaciations, even though the major influence on their scope was a combination of astronomical factors determining the location of Earth’s surface in relation to the Sun. These factors include the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit, the inclination of Earth’s axis in relation to the plane of its orbit and the time of equinoxes. These astronomic changes occur in periods of tens of thousands of years. By comparison with changes in astronomic factors, all other factors appear to have exerted a lesser influence on climatic fluctuations during Quaternary period.

The above conclusions have been verified by using a numerical model that makes possible the calculation of individual ice covers as influenced by external factors. Budyko and Vashishcheva (1971) studied the climatic conditions during glaciation periods using a model describing the distribution of average latitudinal temperature in different seasons showed that fluctuation in the radiation regime caused by changes in the position of Earth’s surface in relation to Sun may lead to substantial changes in climate. Though average global temperature does not fluctuate much at such times, such modest fluctuations are accompanied by perceptible shifts in the boundaries of ice covers.

Climatic changes in 20th century

Meteorological observations for first half of present century show a trend of increased temperatures which attained a maximum in 1930s. From the studies of reasons explaining climatic change during this period it appears that increase in temperature has been caused by an increase in transparency of stratosphere resulting in increased inflow of solar radiation (i.e. increased meteorological Solar constant) entering the troposphere. This has led to an increase in average global air temperature at Earth’s surface.

The changes in air temperature at different latitudes and in different seasons have depended on the optical thickness of the stratospheric aerosol and on the shifts in the boundaries of sea polar ice. The shrinking Arctic sea ice due to rise in air temperature has further contributed to increase in air temperature during cold seasons at high latitudes in Northern Hemisphere.

It seems probable that changes in transparency of stratosphere during first half of this century have been associated with the regime of volcanic activities and in particular with changes in the inflow of the products of volcanic eruptions (including sulphur dioxide) into stratosphere. There are grounds to believe that during last 3 to 4 decades, changes in climate have also begun to depend, atleast in some measure, on human activities.


Filed under: Palaeoenvironment — gargpk @ 2:07 pm
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The climate of Earth has not remained same throughout the geological history of the planet. A broad history of climate changes has been constructed based on palaeogeomorphic studies for the geological past and on observations through network of meteorological stations for the present time. An outline of this history of climate changes has been given below.

Precambrian: Very little data is available to deduce the climatic conditions during Precambrian times.

Palaeozoic era (570 to 235 million years B.C.): Somewhat more information is available for this era. It has been deduced that during major part of Palaeozoic era the climate was very warm in all parts of the globe and moisture conditions on the continents fluctuated within wide boundaries.

Towards the end of Palaeozoic, at the boundary between Carboniferous and Permian periods, a glaciation developed extending over a large part of the land area which is presently located at tropical latitudes. It is difficult to estimate the geological location of that glaciation during its development since substantial shifts may have subsequently occurred in the location of Earth’s continents and poles. During Permocarboniferous glaciation, climatic conditions in other regions of Earth were relatively warm.

During Permian period, a thermal zonality appeared and areas of dry climate were greatly enlarged on continents.

Mesozoic era (235 to 66 million B.C.): The climate of this era was relatively uniform. Climatic conditions similar to today’s tropical climate prevailed over a large part of Earth. At higher latitudes, climate was cooler, though it remained quite warm with negligible seasonal changes in temperature. Moisture conditions on the continents appear to have been homogeneous during this era by comparison with the present, even though zones of insufficient and excess humidity did exist. Towards the end Cretaceous period, the zone of hot climate became less extensive while the zone of dry climatic conditions spread.

Cenozoic era: In passing from Mesozoic to Cenozoic era, no perceptible changes in climate occurred. During the second half of Tertiary period (towards the middle of Oligocene epoch) a process of progressive cooling began that was most pronounced at middle and especially at high latitudes. Since then a new climatic zone developed at high latitudes and gradually widened whose meteorological regime was similar to that of current climatic conditions at middle latitudes. The winter air temperature in that zone fell below zero and this made possible the seasonal formation of snow covers. At the same time the specific properties of continental climates became more pronounced in continental regions distant from the ocean.

During Miocene epoch the cooling process was not uniform and there were periods of temperature rises as well. But these did not alter the general tendency towards an intensification of thermal zonality attributable to declining temperatures at high latitudes.

During the Pliocene epoch the above process was further intensified when the continental glaciation that started during Oligocene in Antarctic (and which continues to exist today) began to spread. Towards the end of Pliocene the climate became warmer than it is today, it was more similar to contemporary climatic conditions than to those of Mesozoic era and of the first half of the Tertiary period.

During Pleistocene epoch the climate differed sharply from preceding conditions in Mesozoic era and the Tertiary period when the thermal zonality was not very pronounced. Pleistocene epoch began about 1.5 to 2.0 million years ago following an intensification of the cooling that occurred towards the end of Tertiary period at middle and high latitudes. This contributed to development of large continental glaciations. The number of such glaciations and their time of occurrence are known only approximately. Studies in Alps have identified four principal European ice ages termed Gunz, Mindel, Riss and Wurm. Each of these glacial ages could be further subdivided into several stages and glaciations receded during the intervals that divided them. Periods of spread and receding of glaciations occupied only a smaller part of Pleistocene and relatively warm intervening periods were more prolonged. During these warmer periods, ice cover on continents disappeared and existed only in mountainous regions and at high latitudes. It has been established that the advance and receding of glaciations in Europe, Asia and North America occurred more or less at the same time and a similar correspondence occurred in ice ages in Northern and Southern hemispheres. The spread of ice covers on continents was greatest in regions of more humid maritime climates. In relatively dry climates of Northern Asia, glaciations occupied a relatively small area. During periods of particularly vas glaciations the continental ice cover in Northern Hemisphere reached on the average, 57o North Latitude and in individual regions 40o N latitude. The thickness of continental ice cover over a major part was several hundred meters and in some regions it reached to several kilometers. With continental glaciation, the boundary of sea polar ice also moved to lower latitudes. This greatly increased the overall area of our globe’s permanent ice cover. During each glaciation period the snow level in mountainous regions not subjected to glaciation moved down by hundreds of meters and sometimes more than a kilometer. During these ice ages the zones of permafrost also increased greatly; their boundary moving to lower latitudes over distances that sometimes reached several thousand kilometers. During ice ages, along with extensive glaciations, the level of World Ocean declined by 100 to 150 meters below its present level. During warm periods between ice ages, glaciations receded and level of oceans rose by several tens of meters over the present level. The climate of ice ages was characterized by perceptible decline in air temperature in all the regions of world. This reduction in temperature on the average amounted to several degrees below the current temperature and was more pronounced at higher latitudes. In warm periods between ice ages, air temperature was higher than it is today. The influence of ice ages on precipitation is less clear. Some data suggest that moisture conditions in different parts of the world changed in different ways during periods of glaciation. This points to changes in the system of atmospheric circulation produced by glaciations and to corresponding changes in temperature differences between Equator and poles.

Holocene epoch represented a relatively short time period in the history of climate changes that followed the end of Quaternary glaciations. There were several fluctuations in the climatic conditions during this epoch. Maximal development of Wurmian glaciation occurred approximately 20,000 B.C. and after few thousand years this glaciation was destroyed. After this an epoch followed in which climate was relatively cold and humid at middle latitudes of Northern Hemisphere. About 12,000 B.C. temperature increased substantially (the Allered) and soon after this a cold period followed. As a result of these climatic fluctuations, Europe’s summer air temperature changed by several degrees. Subsequently temperature increased once again and the last large-scale glaciations in Europe and North America disappeared between 5,000 to 7,000 B.C. At that time, post-glaciation temperature increases reached a maximum. Between 5,000 to 6,000 B.C. air temperature at middle latitudes of Northern Hemisphere was about 1 to 3 degrees C higher than today. During this time, changes in atmospheric circulation also occurred. While polar ice boundaries shifted to the north, the sub-tropical high-pressure belt moved to higher latitudes leading to an expansion of arid zones in a number of regions of Europe, Asia and North America. The volume of precipitation in contemporary desert areas at low latitudes also increased. During that period, Sahara’s climate was relatively humid. Subsequently a trend towards lower temperatures prevailed that was especially pronounced during the fist half of the first millennium B.C. Together with these changes in thermal regime the precipitation regime also changed and gradually approached its present state.

An appreciable rise in temperature occurred at the end of first and beginning of second millennium A.D. At that time polar ice receded to high latitudes. The process of cooling that began in 13th century and reached a maximum at the beginning of 17th century was accompanied by an extension of mountain glaciers and is sometimes referred to as a small ice age. Subsequently temperature increased again and ice has receded. The climatic conditions of 18th and 19th century differed little from those that exist today.

Towards the end of 19th century there has been a gradual increase in air temperature at all latitudes of Northern Hemisphere and in all seasons, especially at high latitudes during cold seasons. Increase in temperature reached a maximum in 1930s when average temperature in Northern Hemisphere increased by about 0.6o C by comparison with the end of 19th century. In 1940s a cooling started that continued until recently. This cooling, however, was relatively slow in comparison with preceding cycle of increased temperatures. In Northern Hemisphere, increased air temperature has been accompanied by reduction in polar ice area, receding of the boundary of permafrost to high latitudes and a northward movement of forest and tundra boundaries as well other changes in natural conditions. The amount of precipitation in a number of regions of insufficient moisture was reduced as the air temperature increased, particularly during cold seasons of the year. It is also believed that that during the first half of 20th century, temperature increased in Southern Hemisphere as well.

Present-day climate

Filed under: Environment — gargpk @ 2:05 pm

_uacct = “UA-3865057-2”;

The climatic conditions of present century have been established on the basis of meteorological data collected from worldwide network of climatic stations. The data shows that elements of meteorological regime change perceptibly over time. These changes are both periodic (daily or yearly) oscillations as well as non-periodic oscillations of different time intervals. Short interval non-periodic changes (of days or months) occurring in meteorological regime determine the oscillations in weather. These changes are not spatially homogeneous and are largely explained by the instability of atmospheric circulation. For longer time intervals (of several years), there occur irregular oscillations of individual elements of meteorological regime as well as long-term changes similar over large territories. Such changes characterize fluctuations in climate. Since climatic fluctuations in the present times are relatively modest, average values of meteorological elements over a period of several decades could be used in order to describe the climatic features of the present age. The use of such average values makes it possible to exclude the influence of unstable atmospheric circulation pattern. Following Table-6 shows average temperature in January and July and also average yearly atmospheric precipitation at various latitudes.

Data show that difference between average temperatures at Earth’s surface at various latitudes is almost 700 C. The temperature is maximum at Equator and lowest at South Pole. Earth’s spherical shape exerts a substantial influence on the distribution of these temperatures by producing variations in the total radiation reaching the upper boundary of atmosphere. Further, permanent ice covers are found at high latitudes where air temperature does not rise above freezing point almost throughout the year. Apart from substantial changes in meridonial direction, average air temperature at Earth’s surface also changes substantially in most latitudinal zones at various longitudes. This is largely explained by the distribution of continents and oceans.

The influence of ocean’s thermal regime extends to a large part of the surface of continents on which maritime climate exists. This is characterized by a relatively modest yearly oscillations in air temperature at middle and high latitudes. In those extratropical continental regions where influence of oceanic thermal regime is less pronounced, the amplitude of yearly temperature fluctuations increase sharply characterizing the continental climate.

The distribution of average latitudinal precipitation values produces a pattern in which the principal maximum value occurs in the equatorial zone, total precipitation declines at subtropical latitudes, two secondary maxima lie at middle latitudes and precipitation declines in polar latitudes. Changes in average precipitation at different latitudes are explained by the distribution of average air temperatures and by specific characteristics of atmospheric circulation. Other conditions being equal, total precipitation increases with temperature because it increases the volume of atmospheric water vapour. Vertical air currents that carry water vapour through condensation level producing clouds also have important role in precipitation.

The atmosphere’s overall circulation is closely associated with geographical distribution of stable pressure systems. Particularly important such systems are low-pressure belt near the equator, high-pressure region at high tropical and subtropical latitudes and the region of frequent cyclonic formations at middle latitudes. Downward movements of air within high-pressure zones substantially reduce the precipitation while pronounced upward air movements at equatorial latitudes and in several regions at middle latitudes increase the precipitation.

Largest desert areas on Earth having negligible precipitation are found in the subtropical high-pressure zone. Total precipitation also declines in continental regions at middle latitudes which are distant from oceans because very small quantity of water vapour carried by air currents from oceans reaches these regions.

Thus in the continents, zones of humid climates are largely located at equatorial latitudes and in regions of maritime climate, at middle and high latitudes. Similarly, at high tropical and subtropical latitudes and in regions of continental climates, conditions of insufficient moisture prevail.

Mechanisms of climate change

Filed under: Environment — gargpk @ 2:01 pm

_uacct = “UA-3865057-2”;

There are distinctly different and quite complex patterns of energy transfers at different latitudes of Earth. The global climate and energy budgets at latitudes are correlated so that if climate of one large area or globe as a whole changes then considerable changes in energy budgets of different latitudes may occur. Similarly if energy budget of one large area or globe as a whole changes then considerable changes in the global climate may also occur. Three major types of mechanisms of climatic change can be recognized viz. deterministic extrinsic, stochastic extrinsic and stochastic intrinsic mechanisms.

These mechanisms of climatic change include those processes that are external to Earth’s climate system, are repetitive events i.e. cyclic events of definite periodicity and have forcing effect on global climate. Such mechanisms may be categorized as follows:

a) Mechanisms related to geometry of solar system

These include those processes that are due to cyclic variations in the geometry of Sun-Earth-Moon system.

i) Lunar cycle: It is the 14-day cycle of lunar tidal influences due to orbiting of Moon around Earth. The effect of tidal influences on the climate are observed as variations in cloudiness and rainfall.

ii) Milankovitch cycles: Three cycles of different periodicity have been recognized due to changes in Sun-Earth geometry.

100,000-year cycle: It is cyclic change in the shape of Earth’s orbit around Sun from nearly circular to markedly elliptical and back. At present the orbit is nearly circular and the difference between perihelion and aphelion is about 3.5%. In most elliptical condition of the orbit, this difference may be as large as 30%.

21,000-year cycle: It is the cycle due to wobbling of Earth’s axis of rotation. This wobble in 10,000 years time causes a shift to more extreme difference between summer and winter climates and hemispherical differences in solar constant.

40,000-year cycle: It is the cyclic change in the angle of inclination of Earth’s rotation within a range of 21.8o to 24.4o (presently being about 23.45o). Increase in the angle of inclination results in increased contrast between summer and winter climates.

Most important aspect of these cycles of variations in Earth-Sun geometry is that the distribution of solar irradiance of Earth, particularly between the two hemispheres, varies regularly during the period of each of these cycles. This results in changes in the radiation balance and consequently the energy balance, which affects the global climate. The above three cycles occur simultaneously but not synchronously (due to different periodicity) and, therefore, lead to a long and complex time series of climatic variation.

Considerable evidence has now accumulated in favour of the Milankovitch model in which he proposes that these three cycles lead to major ice ages on Earth. Whenever the summer insolation in the northern hemisphere decreases by 2% during these cycles, the ice cover of Earth spreads, particularly between the latitudes 50o to 70o N. This spread of ice cover results in increase in the albedo of Earth’s surface. This, in turn, leads to decreased absorption of solar radiation and consequent decline in the temperature. The spread of ice cover is also associated with decrease in atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide. This decrease in carbon dioxide in atmosphere results in reduced atmospheric absorption of long-wave re-radiation from Earth’s surface, which results in further decrease in temperature. Thus, the initial spread of ice cover acts as trigger for increasing decline in temperature and consequently more and more spread of ice cover leading to major ice age.

b) Mechanisms related to solar radiant emittance
These mechanisms also bring about climatic changes due to changes in solar irradiance of Earth but the cause of change in solar irradiance is actual cyclic variation in the output of radiation from Sun i.e. variation in solar radiant emittance.

Most important such mechanisms are Sunspot cycles of different periodicity. Sunspots are areas on the Sun’s surface which have temperatures lower than average surface temperature of Sun but have intense magnetic and solar activity. The number and area of sunspots is not constant but shows regular cyclic variation between some minima and maxima. Such sunspot cycles having periods of 11-years (occurrence of successive sunspot minima) and 22 to 23 years (double sunspot cycle associated with reversal of solar magnetic field) are quite important. It has been shown that solar constant varies by about 2% during such sunspot cycles. Other cycles having periodicity of 45, 80, 150, 200, 500, 1000 years have also been recognized. The impact of these cycles depends on their effectiveness in perturbing the global energy balance. Their effect may be realized as changes in pattern of atmospheric circulation.

These include processes that are external to Earth’s climatic system, have forcing effect on global climate but are not regularly repetitive but occur at irregular intervals i.e. are stochastic in nature. Most important such mechanism is volcanic eruptions. A very large quantity of volcanic ash and sulphuric acid droplets is injected into the Earth’s atmosphere, particularly into stratosphere during volcanic eruption. This addition of volcanic dust in the atmosphere reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. This reduction in solar irradiance of Earth’s surface may result in reduced temperature, particularly during summers. Lamb (1971) has shown that for British Isles many of the coldest and wettest summers (e.g. during 1695, 1725, 1816, 1879, 1903, 1912 A.D.) occurred at times when volcanic dust content of stratosphere and atmosphere was high. Bray (1974) has proposed that volcanic activity may also have triggered the relatively recent glacial advances such as in periods of 5400-4700 B.C., 2850-2150 B.C. and 470-50 B.C. Possibly the injection of volcanic dust into atmosphere during a sensitive stage of Milankovitch cycles may hasten the approach of an ice age. Important considerations related to impact of volcanic eruption on global climate are:

a) Type and quantity of volcanic aerosols injected into atmosphere: Higher the amount and proportion of volcanic ash injected into the atmosphere, greater is the reduction in solar radiation reaching Earth’s surface.

b) Residence time of aerosols in stratosphere: If aerosols injected by volcanic eruption stay in stratosphere for sufficiently long time only then the decrease in solar irradiance will be realized as effect on the climate. The residence times of aerosols are inversely proportional to their size i.e. smaller the size, longer the residence time. Acid droplets in particular and ash to lesser extent may have residence times in stratosphere and atmosphere in the order of a few years.

c) Global air circulation: The particles injected into the atmosphere during volcanic eruption are spread over a range of latitudes by stratospheric winds depending on the pattern of global air circulation. According to Lockwood (1979), volcanic dust injected into equatorial zones of stratosphere is spread over whole of globe and perhaps is accumulated over polar ice caps. The dust injected in high latitudes does not spread to latitudes lower than about 300 N. Maximum effect of volcanic dust on global climate is due to this apparent tendency particles to accumulate and persist over high latitudes. This is because the effect of stratospheric particles on incoming solar radiation increases with latitude due to greater reflectance of radiation with increasing angle of incidence of solar beam.

These mechanisms related to climatic change include those processes that originate within the climatic system of Earth i.e. are internal (intrinsic) processes. These mechanisms have forcing effect on climate and are not regular repetitive events but are probabilistic or stochastic in nature. Important such mechanisms of climate change are discussed below.

a) High-pressure and low-pressure atmospheric systems: Most familiar stochastic events are changes in synoptic weather patterns typified by movements of regions of high and low atmospheric pressure. Such pressure areas occur only for few days at most and their spatial and temporal distribution is controlled by the great flows of circumpolar vortex.

b) Anticyclonic and cyclonic systems: In each hemisphere of globe, there is considerable wind flow from west to east through most of the atmosphere. Majority of this flow is in middle latitudes. This circumpolar flow plays important role in creating and maintaining characteristic pattern of global climate. Variations in atmospheric pressure cause disturbances in this circumpolar flow and lead to climatic change. Such disturbances arise due to differences in degree of radiant heating of Earth’s surface. Low-pressure areas develop over colder and high-pressure areas over warmer regions. These high- and low-pressure areas in atmosphere in turn affect the velocity of circumpolar vortex. Local high-pressure areas accelerate while low-pressure areas deaccelerate the circumpolar flow. These processes thus result in development of high- and low-pressure atmospheric systems which in turn are moved around the globe by the circumpolar vortex. In general, high-pressure systems or anticyclones are maintained along the warm side of the upper wind and low pressure or cyclonic systems occur near the cold side of the main flow.

c) Meridonial flow system: The above described smooth zonal pattern of circumpolar vortex changes stochastically to a system of meanders from the middle latitudes to the pole and back again. This pattern is called meridonial flow system and may be long lasting. It exerts a blocking effect on the more typical pattern of climate or weather. The meridonial flow leads to periods of abnormally extreme weather with drought in one location and floods in another. The extremes of temperatures also occur in the same manner. Striking example of the effect of meridonial flow on climate was in summer of 1976 A.D. when climate of British Isles was particularly hot and dry while Greece and Turkey experienced wetter than average climate. It has also been suggested that increases in meridonial flow and resultant blocking of atmospheric flow might have caused or amplified the course of Little Ice Age during late 16th to early 18th centuries. The climate of this period varied considerably over whole of globe, observed as low precipitation during the Indian monsoons, expansion of polar ice caps, severe winters in Europe and yet a warmer climate in Siberia during the 17th century.

El Nino effect: The ocean currents also have very important relationship with characteristic global climatic pattern and any change in pattern of ocean currents results in considerable change in climate. Best known periodic variation of ocean currents is El Nino effect. It is the irregular fluctuation of ocean currents off the coast of Peru and Equador. Its recurrence time is stochastic between 3 to 8 years. Due to dominant, cold Peruvian current the coastline of Peru and Ecuador has very little precipitation and the adjacent sea is colder than the land. This climatic pattern is generally emphasized by trade winds from the southeast. During an El Nino event, these trade winds are replaced by northerly winds, which cause southward flow of warm equatorial water. This leads to heavy rainfall over the arid regions of Peru. The time scales of variations in the circumpolar vortex and of the El Nino event are quite short being in the order of few years only. Kutzbach (1976) has emphasized that intrinsic processes operating on time scales of millennia with interactions between the atmosphere, ocean currents and global ice may be important in understanding the regular occurrence of Ice Ages.

Climate theory and analysis of climate

Filed under: Environment — gargpk @ 1:58 pm

_uacct = “UA-3865057-2”;

The global climate is the result of innumerable interactions occurring amongst components of the global environment, chiefly amongst hydrosphere (particularly the oceans) and the atmosphere. These interactions result in particular meteorological conditions and spatial average fields of these conditions produce climatic regimes. The purpose of climate theory is to identify the average distribution of meteorological elements in space and time as well as their responsiveness to external factors. For this numerical models of climate are devised which make it possible to calculate average fields of meteorological elements. With the development of high-power computers, it has also become possible to design numerical models that can reproduce non-average fields of meteorological elements and calculate such fields for prolonged time intervals thus allowing calculation of average fields describing climatic conditions. Various theoretical/numerical models have been developed in the past half century. These allow description and/or study of present climate as well as changes in climatic conditions produced by natural or anthropogenic activities. For example, numerical model of climate given by Manabe and Bryan shows the influence of the circulation of the circulation of ocean waters on climatic conditions while model given by Holloway and Manabe shows the distribution of basic components of heat and water balance at the Earth’s surface similar to that present actually on Earth. As has been pointed above, the numerical models of climate can be employed for the study of current climate as well as climatic changes. However, the models used to study climatic change have to meet more rigorous requirements than the models used to study current climatic regime. The important requirements are:

1. Model should not include empirical data concerning the distribution of individual elements of climate, particularly those that change substantially during the changes in climate.

2. Model must recognize realistically all types of inflow of heat that influence the temperature field appreciably; in particular, the law of conservation of energy.

3. Model must include major feedback relations among various elements of climate.

The third requirement is most important and has been discussed below.


Feedback relations among climatic elements are highly complex and interrelated. Such relations include both negative and positive feedback relations.

Negative feedback relationships

These relationships reduce the anomalies of meteorological elements and contribute to the approximation of this values of these elements towards their climatic normals. Thus the climatic stability is maintained by negative feedback relationships among climatic elements. Major such negative feedback relationships are:

1. Long-wave radiation and temperature at Earth’s surface: Intensity of long-wave radiation increases with increase in temperature at Earth’s surface. This produces a greater expenditure of heat energy inhibiting further increase in temperature.

2. Heat transfer in atmosphere and air temperature gradient: The usual flow of heat in atmosphere from a zone of higher temperature produces a smoothing process that eliminates the differences in temperature distribution.

Positive feedback relationships

Such relationships among climatic elements play major role in climatic change since these increase the anomalies in meteorological elements. Thus positive feedback relationships reduce the climatic stability. Major such relationships are:

Absolute air humidity and air temperature: Absolute air humidity increases with rise in air temperature. With rise in temperature, evaporation increases leading to comparative constancy of relative humidity in most climatic zones (except in dry continental regions). Increase in absolute air humidity decreases long-wave radiation. Thus increase in absolute air humidity with rise in temperature partly compensates the increased long-wave radiation attributable to increased temperature. Manabe and Wetherald (1967) showed that the influence of change in solar constant on air temperature at Earth’s surface in condition of constant relative humidity is almost twice as when absolute humidity is stable. This particular feedback relationship is important in numerical models of thermal regimes employed in studies of climatic changes.
Snow and ice cover and albedo of Earth’s surface: Positive feedback relationship between snow and ice covers on the albedo of Earth’s surface plays a very great influence on the patterns of changes in atmospheric thermal regimes. Ice or snow covers have high albedo and so reduce air temperature above them and climatic changes are intensified by formation and melting of ice. Available data shows that during summer months, albedo over ice cover in Central Arctic is about 0.7 while in Antarctica, it is about 0.8 to 0.85. In regions free of ice and snow, albedo of Earth’s surface does not exceed 0.15. This indicates that other conditions being same, snow and ice covers reduce the radiation absorbed by Earth’s surface by several times.
Snow and ice covers and Earth-atmosphere system: The data shows that albedo of Earth-atmosphere system during summers in Central Arctic region is 0.55 and is about 0.6 in Antarctic region. This is approximately twice the value of the estimated albedo for the planet as a whole which is about 0.33. Such large differences in values of albedo must exert considerable influence on the atmospheric thermal regime.
Air temperature and Earth’s albedo: Creation of ice and snow covers at the Earth’s surface due to reduction in air temperature creates a sharp decline in the absorbed radiation. This contributes to a further reduction in Earth’s temperature and consequently further increases the area under snow and ice. The reverse process may be effected by increases in temperature which results in melting of ice and snow. Budyko (1968) showed that inclusion of this feedback relationship into a numerical model of atmospheric thermal regime invariably always exerts a very substantial influence on the distribution of air temperature at Earth’s surface. This influence can be shown by a simple example which shows how average global temperature will change if Earth’s surface becomes fully covered by snow and ice and clouds in atmosphere are absent. In such condition Earth’s albedo will change from its present value of 0.33 to value for dry snow cover i.e. 0.8. This increase in albedo will reduce the air temperature. The absence of clouds will further reduce the temperature of lower layers of atmosphere near Earth’s surface. In present times, the average temperature in lower layers of atmosphere rises substantially almost everywhere at the Earth’s surface as a result of green-house effect that is associated with absorption of long-wave radiation by water vapour and carbon dioxide present in atmosphere. But at very low temperature resulting in formation of snow and ice covers at Earth’s surface, green-house effect would become insignificant and dense clouds which perceptibly change the radiation flows are not formed. Under such conditions, atmosphere will become more or less transparent to both short-wave and long-wave radiations. The average temperature of the Earth’s surface for such transparent atmosphere is determined by the formula 4/So(1- αs /4 σ where So = Solar constant; αs = albedo of Earth’s surface; σ = Stefen’s constant. This formula shows that Earth’s average surface temperature at albedo value of 0.8 will be -87o C (186o K). Thus if ice or snow were to cover the entire Earth even for a short period, the Earth’s average temperature will decline by approximately 100o C from its present value of 15o C. This shows the enormous influence of snow cover on the thermal regime.
A number of studies have attempted to calculate the influence of sea polar ice on Arctic thermal regime. On the basis of available data on thermal balance in central regions of Arctic Ocean and of approximate values of proportions derived from a semi-empirical theory of climate, it has been established that polar ice reduces average air temperature in the Central Arctic during summer months by several degrees and by about 20o C in winters. It has been concluded that the Arctic Ocean could be free of ice in the present age but this state would be extremely unstable and it could develop an ice cover as a result of a relatively small change in climate.

Since a permanent ice cover exerts a substantial influence on the atmospheric thermal regime even when it covers only a small part of the Earth’s surface, this must be taken into account in studies of climatic changes.


Budyko (1968) first used a semi-empirical model of atmospheric thermal regime to study the single-valued character and stability of current global climatic regime. The study using distribution of average air temperatures among different latitudes, showed that the present climate is not the only possible one for existing climate-forming factors. Aside from the existing climate, current external conditions may produce a climate corresponding to a ‘white Earth’ as well as other variants of climate. Relatively small changes in external climate-forming factors may greatly alter the existing climate. Numerous subsequent studies employing similar models of climate have confirmed this conclusion.

The study of Wetherald and Manabe (1975) about the stability of existing climate is especially interesting. Unlike studies using semi-empirical models of the distribution of average air temperatures among different latitudes, their study applied a three-dimensional model of a general theory of climate that includes a detailed consideration of dynamic processes occurring in the atmosphere. The model takes into account the influence of state transformations of water on thermal regime including the feedback relationships between the snow cover, polar ice and air temperature. This study showed that if Solar constant increases by more than 2%, average yearly air temperature at low latitudes increases by approximately 2o C, more at higher latitudes and by about 10o C at 80o N. As a result Earth’s ice cover is reduced. The conclusion of this study are similar to those obtained by using semi-empirical models of thermal regime of atmosphere though calculations from such models show slightly larger changes in average yearly air temperature following increases in the solar constant by two percent i.e. 3o to 4o C at low latitudes and 12 to 14o C at 80o N.

Thus it may be concluded that the contemporary climate of Earth is neither unambiguous nor highly stable. It is highly sensitive to small changes in inflows of heat arriving at the upper boundary of atmosphere.

February 25, 2008

Global environment

Filed under: Environment — gargpk @ 2:10 pm


The environment of the planet as a whole may be referred as the global environment of that planet. Thus, the global environment of our planet Earth is the environment of our planet as a whole. The structure and dynamics of the global environment of Earth is the function of various properties and interactions between following components:

(a) Solar radiation: The radiation of the primary star of the planet (generally termed the sun of that planet) received by the planet. It is the essential component of all the planets.

(b) Atmosphere : The gaseous envelop covering the planet extending from the surface of the planet to some distance into the space. It is not necessarily present over every planet and may be absent. However, the planet Earth has a well developed atmosphere over it.

(c) Hydrosphere: Theoretically, this component includes all the water present in gaseous, liquid or any other form in the global environment of the planet. This component may be absent in some planets. On the Earth, this component comprises mostly the liquid water over Earth’s surface and the liquid ground water present below the ground surface. In practice, water vapor present in atmosphere is considered as part of atmosphere and water of crystallization in rocks as part of lithosphere.

(d) Lithosphere: The rocky mantle over the non-solid core of the planet extending from the planet surface to some distance towards the center of the planet. This component is always present in every planet.

(e) Biosphere: This component includes all the living organisms present in the environment of a planet.

The structure, composition, properties and interrelations of the above components together bring about particular meteorological, climatic and weather conditions, which form the unique global environment of our planet.

The Sun of planet Earth emits radiation at a temperature of about 6000 degrees K. Average radiation emitted by Sun at its surface (Sun’s radiant emittance) is 73×106 W per square meter. Spectrum of this solar radiation shows distinct emission lines indicating that it comprises of radiation of different wavelengths. The intensities and thus the magnitudes of the radiation of different wavelengths are also different. The intensity of far ultra-violet radiation is very low due to absorption of radiation by outer photosphere of the Sun. Further, extreme ultra-violet and X-ray parts of solar radiation are emitted from the chromosphere and corona regions of the Sun. These regions have temperatures as high as 1 million K. The solar radiation falling at the upper boundary of Earth’s atmosphere is termed incident solar radiation. Its average magnitude over the Earth is given by (Solar constant x πr2)/4πr2, where r = radius of Earth.

The Solar constant is the irradiance on an area at right angle to solar beam and outside the Earth. Its value is 1353 W per square meter. The average incident solar radiation at upper boundary of Earth’s atmosphere is approximately 11 x 109 J/m2 /yr. Important factors that affect this solar radiation received by Earth are:

Spherical shape of Earth: Earth is a sphere and, therefore, the angle at which incoming solar radiation strikes the upper boundary of atmosphere is not same at all points. The radiation strikes Earth at right angle in the center but the angle gradually becomes more acute towards periphery. As a result, the amount of solar radiation reflected back from the upper surface of atmosphere is zero at the center and increases gradually towards periphery. Thus, the amount of radiation penetrating atmosphere and entering Earth-atmosphere system is maximum in the center and gradually decreases towards periphery.
Orbit of Earth: The orbit of Earth around Sun is not perfectly circular but is slightly elliptic. Sun occupies one focus of this elliptic orbit. The mean distance between Sun and Earth is about 150 million kilometers. However, the orbit of Earth is elliptical and so the distance changes during different times in the year. Earth is closest (about 91.5 million miles) to Sun on about January 3, at which time it is said to be in perihelion. It is at greatest distance (about 94.5 million miles) from Sun on about July 4 when it is said to be in aphelion. These differences in distance also cause some difference in amount of solar radiation received by Earth. However, the ellipticity of orbit is not the reason of seasons on Earth. An important fact related to the Earth’s orbit around Sun is that the geometry of Earth’s orbit is not constant. The orbit at present is very slightly elliptical being nearly circular but the shape of Earth’s orbit changes cyclically from almost circular to markedly elliptical and back with a periodicity of 100,000 years. The solar constant is the mean solar irradiance on an area at upper boundary of Earth’s atmosphere perpendicular to incoming solar beam, which is about 1353 W per square meter. In the present state of Earth’s orbit being nearly circular, the difference between perihelion and aphelion is about 3.5% and the difference in solar constant at these two points is about 6.66%. In the state of most elliptic orbit, difference in solar constant at perihelion and aphelion may be as large as 30%.
Inclination of Earth’s axis of rotation: The axis of rotation of Earth is not perpendicular to the plane of ecliptic i.e. the plane in which Earth’s orbit and Sun lie. Earth’s axis of rotation makes an angle of about 66.5 degrees with the plane of ecliptic and is tilted 23.5 degrees from the line perpendicular to plane of ecliptic. The Earth’s axis although always makes an angle of 66.5 degrees with plane of ecliptic, also maintains a fixed orientation with respect to stars. The Earth’s axis continues to point to the same spot in the heavens as it makes its yearly circuit around Sun. This inclination of Earth’s rotational axis alongwith its fixed orientation throughout the whole orbit around Sun causes different seasons on Earth. Between September 23 and March 21, North Pole of Earth’s axis is tilted towards the Sun and South Pole is away from the Sun. During this period, Northern Hemisphere has summers and Southern Hemisphere has winters. In this period, daylength and, therefore solar radiation received increases towards North Pole and decreases towards South Pole. From March 21 to September 23, South Pole is tilted towards Sun and North Pole is tilted away from it, North Hemisphere has winters and South Hemisphere has summers during this period. In this period, daylength and, therefore, solar radiation received increases towards South Pole and decreases towards North Pole. Maximum tilts of North Pole and South Pole towards Sun occur on June 21 and December 22 respectively and these dates are termed summer solstice and winter solstice respectively. Midway between the dates of solstices, twice the Earth’s axis is at right angle to the line drawn from Sun to Earth and neither pole is tilted towards Sun. This condition occurs on March 21 or 22 (vernal equinox) and on September 22 or 23 (autumn equinox). Two important cyclic changes related with inclination of Earth’s axis of rotation have been noted. First is the wobbling of Earth’s axis of rotation with a periodicity of 21,000 years. This causes continuous and cyclic hemispheric variation in the solar constant. Second change is cyclic variation in the angle of inclination of Earth’s axis of rotation within the range of 21.8o and 24.4o (23.45 degrees at present) with a periodicity of about 40,000 years. Therefore, the distribution of solar irradiance at Earth’s two hemispheres varies continuously with this 40,000 years cyclic periodicity.
The general fate of the incident solar radiation in Earth-atmosphere system is as below:

(a) Absorbed in stratosphere (mainly by Ozone) = 3%

(b) Absorbed in troposphere by:

(i) Carbon dioxide = 1%

(ii) Water vapor = 12%

(iii) Dust = 2%

(iv) Water droplets in clouds = 3%

(c) Reflected from clouds = 21%

(d) Scattering back into atmosphere 6%

(e) Reflected back from Earth’s surface = 4%

(f) Received at Earth’s surface as:

(i) Direct radiation = 27%

(ii) Diffused radiation via clouds or downward scattering = 21%

Solar radiation received by Earth i.e. incident solar radiation undergoes various transformations after entering the uppermost boundary of atmosphere. The solar radiation is absorbed by atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. Some part of solar radiation absorbed in a component provides energy for the dynamic functions of that component. The remaining part of absorbed radiation is re-emitted from the component as long-wave radiation. Two important features in the study of the transformation of solar radiation are albedo and effective radiation, which are discussed below.

The fraction of solar radiation received by a body that is returned back from it forms the albedo of that body. In general, the radiation reflected back from clouds (21%), scattered back into atmosphere (6%) and reflected back from the Earth’s surface (4%) together constitute Earth’s albedo. The average value of albedo of Earth as a whole comes to about 33% or 0.33 (represented as fraction of unity).

The albedo of Earth as a whole has two components:

(a) Albedo of Earth’s surface: It is that fraction of radiation received at the Earth’s surface, which is returned back from the surface. Its value varies depending on the extent of snow cover, vegetation and the soil characteristics. Average albedo values for the snow range from 0.7 to 0.8 and may be as low as 0.4 to 0.5 in case of wet or dirty snow. In the deserts that have light sandy soil and are without vegetation, surface albedo values are typically 0.4 to 0.5. Albedo of damp soil is usually less than that of the corresponding dry soil. In case of damp chernozem soils the albedo values may be as low as 0.05. Albedo of natural Earth surface covered with thick vegetation cover generally ranges from 0.1 to 0.25. Areas covered with coniferous forests have lower albedo than those covered with meadows.

The height of sun in the sky determines the absorption of radiation in the water bodies, mainly the oceans. When sun is relatively high, radiation reaches water surface at high angle. A large part of the incoming radiation penetrates upper layers of water body and is absorbed. When sun is low, the radiation reaches the water surface at low angles and most of it is reflected. Thus it does not penetrate much and the albedo value of water surface increases sharply at low sun. However, in case of diffused radiation, albedo of water surface is much less variable and is about 0.1.

(b) Albedo of Earth-atmosphere system: It is more complex in nature than that of Earth’ surface. Its value is largely determined by the presence-absence, nature and thickness of clouds. In the absence of clouds in the sky, albedo of Earth-atmosphere system depends largely on the albedo of Earth’s surface. If clouds are present, a large portion of solar radiation reaching atmosphere is reflected back from the upper surface of clouds and albedo value of system increases. Albedo of clouds is usually 0.4 to 0.5. In the presence of clouds, albedo of Earth-atmosphere system is usually greater than that of Earth’s surface, except where surface is covered with relatively clean snow.

Effective radiation
It is the difference between the amount of Earth’s radiation from Earth’s surface and the amount of long-wave counter-radiation from atmosphere. Most important factor connected with effective radiation is ‘green-house effect’ due to presence of atmosphere. The atmosphere has various gases viz. carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor etc. which selectively absorb long-wave radiation. Due to this Earth’s atmosphere is relatively more transparent to short-wave radiation than to long-wave radiation. Since long-wave radiation from the Earth’s surface is trapped in the atmosphere, average effective radiation from Earth’s surface as a whole is much lower than the short-wave radiation absorbed at the surface.

The effective radiation of Earth’s surface largely depends on the temperature at Earth’s surface, atmospheric humidity and clouds. Experimental data has shown that radiation of Earth’s natural surfaces is generally quite close to the radiation of black body at corresponding temperatures. Further, a significant part of long-wave radiation lost from Earth’s surface is compensated by long-wave counter-radiation from the atmosphere. This counter-radiation mainly depends on the amount of atmospheric water vapor i.e. air humidity and clouds and so these factors affect the effective radiation of Earth’s surface.


In every component of the global environment, radiation is constantly coming and a portion of incoming radiation is constantly going out of it. The algebraic sum of radiation fluxes reaching and leaving a place is called its radiation balance. In the study of global environment, following three types of radiation balances are important:

(a) Radiation balance of Earth’s surface (R)

It is the algebraic sum of radiation fluxes reaching and leaving the surface of Earth. Its magnitude is equal to the difference between the amounts of direct and diffused short-wave radiation absorbed by Earth’s surface and the long-wave effective radiation and is given as:
R = Q(1 – A) – I
where, R = Radiation balance of Earth’s surface; Q = Total direct and diffused short-wave radiation reaching Earth’s surface; A = Albedo of Earth’s surface given as a fraction of unity; I = Effective radiation.

Due to ‘green-house effect’ of atmosphere, the average radiation balance of Earth’s surface is always positive. The radiation balance of Earth’s surface is linked to the radiation balance of atmosphere.

(b) Radiation balance of Earth-atmosphere system (Rs)

It is the algebraic sum of radiation fluxes reaching and leaving Earth-atmosphere system as a whole. This it is equal to the difference between radiation solar radiation reaching the upper boundary of atmosphere i.e. incoming radiation (incident solar radiation) and long-wave radiation leaving atmosphere’s upper boundary i.e. outgoing radiation. Its magnitude may be given as:

Rs = Qs(1 – As) – Is

where, Rs = Radiation balance of a vertical column extending from upper boundary of atmosphere to the Earth’s surface; Qs = incoming radiation; As = Albedo of Earth-atmosphere system and Is = outgoing radiation.

The outgoing radiation of Earth-atmosphere system includes that part of Earth’s surface radiation which passes through atmosphere unaltered and goes out of atmosphere’s upper boundary plus radiation of atmosphere itself going out of its upper boundary. The outgoing radiation is much influenced by clouds. In the absence of clouds, Earth’s surface radiation within wavelength range of 900-1200 nm plays important role. In completely cloudy conditions, the radiation from the upper surface of clouds becomes very important and this radiation depends on the temperature of that surface. The temperature at the upper surface of clouds is usually much lower than the temperature at the Earth’s surface. Therefore, clouds substantially reduce the amount of long-wave radiation into the outer space.

(c) Radiation balance of atmosphere (Ra)

It is equal to the difference between radiation balance Earth-atmosphere system and the radiation balance of Earth’s surface i.e. given as:

Ra = Rs – R

or, substituting the expressions for Rs and R, as:

Ra = Qs(1 – As) – Q(1 – A) – (Is – I)

The magnitude of the radiation balance of atmosphere is negative and equal to the absolute value of radiation balance at Earth’s surface. This negative radiation balance of atmosphere is compensated by:

(i) inflows of energy from condensation of water vapor during cloud formation and precipitation and

(ii) flow of heat from Earth’s surface associated with turbulent heat conductivity of lower atmospheric layer.

Geographical distribution of radiation balance
The radiation balance at Earth’s surface is not uniform but varies at different geographical locations. Following two factors have important effect on the variation of radiation balance over Earth’s surface.

1. Relationship between latitude and irradiance: The radiation reaching certain surface area (B) at Earth’s surface depends on the latitude and is given by Lambert’s cosine law:

QB = Qo cos z

where, Qo = Irradiance of solar beam at upper boundary of atmosphere i.e. equal to solar constant; z = solar zenith angle.

Zenith angle of direct solar beam may be defined under any condition of varying latitude, solar declination and solar time is given by:

cos z = sin φ sin δ+ cos δ cos h

where, φ= latitude; δ = angle of solar declination (angle between solar beam and equator which varies between -23.45 degrees on 22 December and +23.45 degrees on 22 June); h = hour angle of Sun (measure of time from solar noon where one hour equals to 15 degrees).

Maximum monthly range of solar irradiance shows considerable increase with latitudes and is also related to variations in photoperiod (time in hours between sunrise and sunset P). Value of h at both sunrise and sunset may be derived from solar declination and latitude of site by:

cos h = -(tan φ tan δ)

so that the photoperiod (P) is gives as:

P = 2/15 cos-1 h

2. Optical effects of atmosphere on solar irradiance: The ideal pattern of solar irradiance at the upper boundary of atmosphere is not realized perfectly at Earth’s surface because of the optical effects of atmosphere on solar beam passing through it. Following three features of the interaction between solar irradiance and the atmosphere determine solar irradiance at the Earth’s surface.

(i) Path length (m): Assuming that the thickness of atmosphere over Earth’s surface is uniform, the length of path, which solar beam traverses from upper boundary of atmosphere to the Earth’s surface i.e. the path length (m) is given as:

m = 1/cos z

The path length (m) is shortest at the place where solar beam and Earth’s surface are perpendicular to each other. The above relation is found to be correct upto zenith angle (z) of about 70 degrees (Robinson, 1966). At greater zenith angles, curvature of Earth and atmospheric refraction cause increasing overestimation of the value of path length.

(ii) Atmospheric transmittance: The radiation of solar beam passing through atmosphere may be absorbed, reflected and scattered by various gases and aerosols in the atmosphere. The effects of these phenomena on the solar irradiance are reflected in mean atmospheric transmittance (τ). If all the effects of atmosphere on the solar beam are assumed to be constant throughout the depth of atmosphere, then depletion of the irradiance of solar beam at upper boundary of Earth’s atmosphere (Qo) will be simple function of path length (also termed air mass) and mean atmospheric transmittance. Then the solar irradiance reaching Earth’s surface (Q) will be given as:

Q = Qo τm
The value of τ strongly depends on dust and pollutants present in the atmosphere and may vary from 0.4 in polluted atmosphere to 0.8 in very clear and dry atmosphere.

(iii) Cloud cover: The solar beam passing through Earth’s atmosphere is also affected by the cloud cover present in it. Various empirical relationships have been derived which relate solar irradiance reaching Earth’s surface to some measure of cloudiness. No such relation is perfect because of the variations in optical properties of different cloud types. A general relationship derived from global observations at 88 well separated meteorological stations is given as:

Q = Qo (0.803 – 0.34f – 0.458f2)

Where, f = monthly fractional cloud cover.

The variations in mean atmospheric transmittance have not been included in this relationship and the above relationship will show changes with such variations.

The salient features of the geographical distribution of radiation balance of Earth’s surface keeping in view above effects on solar irradiance at upper boundary of Earth’s atmosphere are as follows:

1. Yearly total radiation: It varies substantially within the range of less than 60 to more than 220 kcal/sq. cm/year.

(i) At high and middle latitudes, distribution of total radiation is zonal in nature while in tropical latitudes the distribution deviates from zonality.

(ii) Total radiation is greatest in high-pressure belts in Northern and Southern Hemispheres, especially in desert areas of continents. Highest total radiation is found in Northwest Africa. It is due to almost total absence of clouds in that region. However, total radiation is reduced in low latitudes near equator, in regions of monsoon climates and in certain other regions due to increased cloudiness.

(iii) Total radiation also varies seasonally i.e. in different months of the year. This may be illustrated by considering its values in June and December i.e. the months in which average height of Sun is highest and the lowest in Northern Hemisphere and vice-versa in Southern Hemisphere.

During December, zero isocline passes somewhat to the north of Arctic Circle. At latitudes above it, Sun never rises above the horizon and total radiation is zero. To the south of zero isocline, total radiation increases rapidly. Its distribution in region below Arctic Circle and above tropical latitudes is largely zonal. In low tropical latitudes, the zonal character of distribution is absent and total radiation is determined by the degree of cloudiness in different regions. Further, average zonal changes in total radiation are relatively small from low latitudes in Northern Hemisphere throughout entire Southern Hemisphere. Continuous increase in length of day towards South Pole in Southern compensates for reduction in average height of Sun and so there is negligible reduction in total radiation towards higher latitudes in Southern Hemisphere.

During June, similar situation exists with regard to distribution of total radiation. In Northern Hemisphere, total radiation shows relatively little change except for desert regions where its value is high. At middle and high latitudes of Southern Hemisphere, total radiation decreases with increasing latitudes.

2. Yearly total radiation balance: Yearly total radiation-balance at Earth’s surface is positive over entire surface of oceans and land. Negative yearly sums of radiation balance are found only in regions of permanent snow or ice cover. The yearly radiation balance shows sharp changes from land to ocean areas. As albedo values of ocean surface are lower, radiation balance of ocean areas is usually higher than that of land areas at same latitudes.

On ocean surface, distribution of radiation balance is generally zonal in character. However, some regions particularly where warm and cold currents operate, some deviations from zonality are found. At tropical latitudes, radiation balance of ocean surface shows small changes while in the middle latitudes, there is rapid reduction in corresponding balances from lower to higher latitudes. Greatest value of radiation balance of Earth’s surface is 140 kcal/sq. cm/year, which occurs in Arabian Sea.

On the land surface, changes in yearly radiation-balance values are also partly zonal in nature. However, in certain regions deviation from zonality is found due to difference in their moisture conditions. In the dry regions, radiation balance is lower in comparison with regions of sufficient or excessive moisture at same latitudes. The low radiation balance in dry regions is due to:

(i) Reflection of short-wave radiation

(ii) Higher expenditure of radiation energy on effective radiation owing to high surface temperature, low cloudiness and relatively low air humidity. Thus alongwith general reduction in radiation balance at higher latitudes, there are also found regions of further reduced radiation balance in areas of dry climate. This reduction is particularly observed in Sahara, deserts of Central Asia and in many other deserts and arid regions. In monsoon regions, yearly radiation balance of Earth’s surface is also somewhat reduced due to intense cloudiness during warm season. In humid tropical regions, highest yearly radiation balance values are found on land but even these just reach 100 kcal/sq. cm/year which is quite less than corresponding maximum value for the ocean.


When solar radiation enters Earth’s environment, it provides energy for maintenance and dynamic functions of different components of global environment. The continuous maintenance of particular physical and chemical states of matter in atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere requires energy provided by solar radiation. Further, various dynamic changes in these states such as air and water movements, changes in the state of water from vapor to liquid to solid and vice-versa and the activities of living organisms are found to occur. These changes are possible only through the expenditure of energy provided by solar radiation. The energy of Earth’s surface radiation balance is expended on heating of atmosphere through turbulent heat conductivity, on evaporation of water, on heat exchange with deeper layers of hydrosphere and lithosphere etc. and photosynthesis in biosphere. In general, the quantitative characteristics of all forms of transformations of solar energy on the Earth’s surface are represented in the equation of global energy (heat) balance. This equation includes the algebraic sum of flows of energy reaching and leaving the Earth’s surface. This sum is always zero according to the law of conservation of energy. The energy balance and radiation-balance at Earth’s surface are linked together.

The equations representing energy balance may be compiled for various volumes and surfaces of atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. However, in the studies of global environment, equations are often employed for an imaginary column whose upper end is at the upper boundary of atmosphere and which passes through atmosphere deep below Earth’s surface. Three equations of energy (heat) balance describing global energy balance are:

(a) Energy balance equation of Earth’s surface

(b) Energy balance equation of Earth-atmosphere system

(c) Energy balance equation of atmosphere.

(a) Energy balance equation of Earth’ surface

Major elements of this equation are :

(i) Radiation balance (R) i.e. radiation flux, which is considered positive in value when it describes inflow of energy (heat) from above to underlying Earth’s surface.

(ii) Turbulent energy (heat) flow (P) from underlying Earth’s surface to atmosphere.

(iii) Underground energy (heat) flow (A) from Earth’s surface to deeper layers of hydrosphere or lithosphere.

(iv) Energy (heat) expenditure on evaporation (or release of heat in condensation) (LE) where L is latent heat of vaporization and E is rate of evaporation.

With the above elements, energy balance equation of Earth’s surface is given as:

R = LE + P + A
The elements of energy balance not included in the above equation are:

1. Energy expenditure on melting of ice or snow on surface (or inflow of heat from freezing of water)

2. Energy expenditure associated with friction of air currents, ocean waves produced by winds and ocean tides

3. Energy (heat) flows transferred by precipitation whenever their temperature is not equal to that of underlying surface

4. Energy expenditure on photosynthesis

5. Energy (heat) inflow from oxidation of biomass.

With the addition of these elements also, comprehensive energy balance equation of Earth’s surface may be obtained.

The magnitude of underground energy (heat) flow (A) may be obtained from the energy balance equation of a vertical column whose upper base is at Earth’s surface and lower base at the depth below ground surface where heat flow is negligible (Fig. 2). Since heat flow from depths of Earth’s crust is negligible, vertical flow of heat at the lower base of column may be assumed to be zero. The equation for A is given as:

A = Fo + B

where, B represents the changes in heat content inside the column over a given period of time and Fo is the inflow of heat produced by horizontal heat exchange between the column being considered and the surrounding space of hydrosphere or lithosphere. Fo is equal to the difference between amounts of heat entering and leaving through vertical walls of column.

In lithosphere, Fo usually becomes negligible due to low heat conductivity of soil. Thus for land A = B and since over a period of whole year, upper layers of soil are neither heated nor cooled, A = B = 0.

Fo becomes large in case of water bodies having currents with a large horizontal heat conductivity determined by macroturbulence. In case of closed water bodies taken as a whole whose depth and area are large, values of A and B are close. It is because heat exchange between such bodies of water and the ground are usually negligible. However, in specific sectors of oceans, seas and lakes, magnitudes of A and B may be substantially different. The average yearly value of heat exchange of an active surface with lower is not zero but is equal to the quantity of heat received or lost due to currents and macroturbulence i.e. A = Fo.

Thus for average yearly period, energy balance equation of Earth’s surface will be:

(i) For land: R = LE + P

(ii) For ocean: R = LE + P + Fo

(iii) For deserts (where evaporation is almost zero): R = P

(iv) For global oceans as a whole (where redistribution of heat by currents is compensated and is zero): R = LE + P

(b) Energy balance equation of Earth-atmosphere system

This equation can be derived by considering the inflow and expenditure of energy in a vertical column passing downwards from the top of atmosphere to that level in hydrosphere or lithosphere at which noticeable daily or seasonal fluctuations of temperature stop (Figure-1). Energy (heat) flow through the lower base of this column is practically zero.

Energy balance equation of Earth-atmosphere system may given as:

Rs = Fs + L(E – r) + Bs

All the terms on the right-hand side of equation are assumed positive in value when they describe expenditure of energy (heat). The elements of the equations are as discussed below:

(i) Radiation balance of Earth-atmosphere system (Rs): It describes the energy (heat) exchange between the vertical column under consideration and the outer space and is equal to the difference between the amounts of total solar radiation absorbed by the entire column and the total long-wave radiation from column to outer space. It is considered positive when it describes inflow of energy (heat) into the Earth-atmosphere system.

(ii) Total horizontal heat transfer (Fs): It occurs through the sides of the column under consideration and is given as:

Fs = Fo + Fa

where, Fo = horizontal heat transfer through sides of the column in the atmosphere and Fa = horizontal heat transfer through the sides of column in the hydrosphere or lithosphere. Value of Fa is similar to that of Fo and describes the difference of inflow and expenditure of heat in the column of air resulting from atmospheric advection and macroturbulence.

(iii) Heat transfers in change of the state of water: Heat balance of column is also influenced by sources of heat (both positive and negative) that are located within the column itself. These include the inflow and expenditure of heat due to changes in state of water, especially by evaporation and condensation.

Over sufficiently homogeneous surfaces during long periods, the average difference in the magnitudes of condensation and evaporation of water drops in atmosphere is equal to the sum of precipitation (r) and the inflow of heat is equal to Lr. Corresponding component in the energy balance represents the difference between heat inflow from condensation and its expenditure in the evaporation of drops. It may differ from Lr in conditions of rugged surfaces and also in individual short periods of time.

The difference between heat expenditure on evaporation the surface of water bodies, soils and vegetation and heat inflows from condensation on these surfaces are equal to LE.

The overall influence of condensation and evaporation on the column’s energy balance may be approximated in terms L(r -E).

(iv) Changes in the heat content within the column: This change over the period being referred is represented by component Bs in the energy balance equation.

Remaining components of the balance such as heat inflow from dissipation of mechanical energy, difference between heat expenditure and inflow on melting and formation of ice, difference between heat expenditure on photosynthesis inflow from oxidation of biomass etc. are very small and may be neglected.

Consideration of different components of energy balance equation under different conditions shows that:

(i) For an average yearly period, magnitude of Bs is apparently close to zero and the equation simplifies to:

Rs = Fs + L(E – r)

(ii) For the land conditions, the equation becomes:

Rs = Fa + L(E – r)

(iii) For the entire globe, E = r over a period of one year and horizontal inflow of heat into the atmosphere and hydrosphere is apparently zero. Thus the energy balance equation of Earth-atmosphere system for the Earth as a whole simplifies to:

Rs = 0
(c) Energy balance equation of atmosphere

This equation may be obtained by either

(i) Summing up the corresponding flows of heat or

(ii) As difference between members in the heat balance equation for the Earth-atmosphere system and in that for Earth’s surface.

Assuming that atmospheric radiation balance is given by:

Ra = Rs – R

and changes in the heat content of atmosphere (Ba) are given by:

Ba = Bs – B

it can be seen that:

Ra = Fa – Lr – P + Ba

and for an average yearly period, equation is:

Ra = Fa – Lr – P

Distribution of energy balance components of Earth’s surface
Important components of energy balance of Earth’s surface which show geographical differences in their values are heat expenditure on evaporation, turbulent heat exchange and redistribution of heat through atmospheric and oceanic currents.

1. Heat expenditure on evaporation: The magnitudes of evaporation from land surface and the oceans in the vicinity of coastlines, differ significantly. This may apparently be explained

(i) differences in the value of possible evaporation on land and on ocean and

(ii) the influence of insufficient moisture in many land areas which limits the intensity evaporation processes and of heat expenditure on evaporation.

At extratropical latitudes, absolute value of heat expenditure on evaporation generally decreases with increasing latitudes. However, major non-zonal changes on land and ocean alter this pattern. In tropical latitudes, distribution of heat expenditure on evaporation is quite complex. Compared to high-pressure regions, its value declines somewhat in the ocean regions adjoining the Equator.

In the oceans, maximum mean latitudinal heat expenditure on evaporation occurs within high-pressure belts. At 50-70 degrees where radiation balances of land and oceans are approximately same, the heat expenditure on evaporation is substantially larger for oceans. This is evidently due to large expenditure of heat brought by ocean currents. In oceans, distribution of warm and cold currents is principal cause of the non-zonal changes in heat expenditure on evaporation. All the major warm currents increase heat expenditure substantially while cold currents reduce it. This may be clearly seen in regions influenced by warm currents like Gulf stream and Kuroshio by old currents like those of Canary Islands, Bengal, California, Peru and Labrador. The yearly evaporation from ocean surface at a particular latitude may change by several time depending on the increase or decrease in water temperature brought about by the currents. In addition, non-zonal in the values of heat expenditure on evaporation and so of evaporation from oceans are also influenced by conditions of atmospheric circulation determining wind velocity and the annual humidity deficit over the oceans. The ocean surfaces have somewhat higher radiation balance than land surfaces and evaporating surfaces may additionally receive a large quantity of heat energy through redistribution of heat by ocean currents. Therefore, evaporation from ocean surface in tropical areas corresponds to a layer of water more than two meters thick.

On the land, mean latitudinal value of heat expenditure on evaporation is maximum at equator. These values change within the subtropical high-pressure belts. In both hemispheres, a certain increase in evaporation occurs with increase in latitudes though the increase is more pronounced in Northern Hemisphere. This increase is due to increased precipitation as compared with arid zones at lower latitudes. The distribution of heat expenditure on evaporation from land surface deviates from zonal pattern even more than from oceans. This is due to very great influence of climatic moisture conditions on evaporation. In regions of sufficient soil moisture found at high latitudes and in humid regions at middle and tropical altitudes, heat expenditure on evaporation and the evaporation are governed largely by balance. In regions of insufficient moisture, evaporation is reduced due to insufficient soil moisture while in desert and semi-desert areas, evaporation is almost equal to low yearly total precipitation. Highest heat expenditure on evaporation occurs in certain equatorial regions where in case of abundant moisture and large inflows of heat, it exceeds 60 kcal/sq. cm/year. This corresponds to yearly evaporation of layer of water more than one meter thick.

Further, the patterns of seasonal heat expenditure on evaporation in extratropical latitudes are different on land and oceans. On the land, this expenditure and evaporation decreases substantially during cold season and depending on moisture conditions, attains a maximum at the beginning or in middle of warm season. In contrast, evaporation from oceans usually increases in cold season due to greater difference in temperature of water and air at that time which increases difference in concentration of water vapor on the surface of water and in air. In addition, in many oceanic regions average wind velocities are greater in cold seasons and this also increases evaporation.

2. Turbulent heat exchange: The value of turbulent heat exchange is positive heat is released by Earth’s surface into air and is negative when heat is received by Earth’s surface from atmosphere during the year. Over a year, all the land surfaces except Antarctica and larger part of ocean surfaces release heat into the atmosphere.

In oceans, turbulent heat exchange gradually increases towards higher latitudes. Its magnitude is not large for greater part of ocean surfaces and usually does not exceed 10-20% of the magnitudes of principal components of energy balance equation. Large absolute values of turbulent heat flow, exceeding 30-40 kcal/cm2/year, occur in regions of powerful warm currents e.g. Gulf Stream. Here water is on average warmer than air and at higher latitudes where sea is still free from ice. Cold oceanic currents reduce temperature of water, reduce turbulent heat flow from ocean surface to the atmosphere and increase it in reverse direction.

On land, turbulent heat flow decreases towards higher latitudes. Its maximum value occurs within high-pressure belts which declines somewhat near Equator and sharply decreases at high latitudes. Magnitude of turbulent heat -exchange on continents is greatly influenced by climatic moisture conditions. In arid regions, turbulent heat flow from land surface into the atmosphere is much higher than in humid regions. Highest expenditure of turbulent heat flows on land is found in tropical deserts where it may exceed 60 kcal/sq. cm/year. In humid regions, especially in regions at middle latitudes, heat expenditure through turbulent flows is usually much lower.

The very different patterns of change in turbulent heat exchange on land and in oceans reflect differences in the mechanisms of air mass transformation on the surfaces of continents and oceans.

3. Heat redistribution through water currents: In the heat balance of oceans, inflow or expenditure of energy owing to horizontal exchanges primarily through oceanic currents is very important. A large quantity of heat is redistributed in oceans between tropical and extratropical latitudes. Both warm and cold currents play important role in redistribution of heat in oceans. Regions of increased positive values of that particular component of heat balance (reflecting outflow of heat from ocean surface to lower layers) correspond with regions of cold currents and the regions of reduced negative values correspond with warm currents. Such correspondence is observed for major warm currents e.g. Gulf Stream, Kuroshio and Southwest Pacific Stream as well as for cold currents e.g. Canary Islands, Bengal, California and Peru. Ocean currents carry away heat mainly from a zone ranging from 20 degrees N latitude to 20 degrees S latitude. Maximum of heat absorbed is slightly shifted to the north of Equator. Further, the heat is carried to higher latitudes and expended in the region of 50 degrees to 70 degrees N latitude where warm currents are especially strong.

Studies of Strokina (1963,1969) concerning changes in heat content of ocean’s upper layers over a year have shown that these changes may attain significant magnitudes which are quite comparable with changes in magnitudes of the main components of heat balance. Greatest yearly changes in heat content of ocean’s upper layers (over 25 kcal/sq. cm/year) are observed in Northwestern regions of Pacific ocean and adjoining areas.

Distribution of energy balance components of Earth-atmosphere system

Data for average yearly conditions show that relative proportions of various components of energy balance of Earth-atmosphere change perceptibly at various latitudes.

In equatorial zone, the large inflow of radiation energy is further increased by addition of a substantial inflow of heat produced by changes in state of water through condensation and evaporation. These sources of heat produce large expenditure of heat on atmospheric and oceanic advection. A relatively narrow zone adjoining Equator is and extremely important source of energy for these advection conditions.

At higher latitudes upto 30-40 degrees, a positive radiation balance that decreases with increasing latitude is accompanied by substantial expenditures of energy on water exchange. In most parts of that zone, energy of radiation balance is almost equal to heat expended on water exchange and very little heat is redistributed through air and water currents.

At latitudes above 40 degrees, a zone of negative radiation balance is found. Its absolute value increasing at higher latitudes. The negative radiation balance of that zone is compensated by inflow of heat brought by air and water currents. Proportions of those components within that balance which compensate for the deficiency of radiation energy vary at different latitudes. For the belt between 40–60 degrees, excess energy released in condensation of water is major source of heat while inflow of heat redistributed by ocean currents is also important. At higher latitudes, especially in polar regions, heat inflow from condensation is very small and influence of ocean currents is either absent (in South polar zone) or is weak due to permanent ice cover (in North polar zone). At these latitudes, redistribution of heat through atmospheric circulation is major source of heat.

The average values of various components of energy balance of Earth-atmosphere system over six-month periods at various latitudes have been studied (Table-2). These show that magnitude of radiation absorbed by Earth-atmosphere system (Qa) is not the only factor determining the magnitude of outgoing long-wave radiation at the top of atmosphere (Is). For middle and high latitudes during October to March in Northern Hemisphere and for high latitudes in Southern Hemisphere throughout the entire year, the main source of heat is heat-transfer from lower latitudes through atmospheric circulation.

Distribution of energy balance components of atmosphere
The average radiation balance of atmosphere at various latitudes changes less than other components of heat balance. The large absolute negative values for the atmospheric radiation-balance observed at all latitudes are compensated largely by inflows of heat from condensation. The role of heat from Earth’s surface through turbulent heat exchange is less important though the influence is quite perceptible.

Distribution of components of energy balance of whole Earth
Depending on the relative proportions of land and ocean areas in particular zones, mean latitudinal distribution of the components of energy balance of Earth as a whole is characterized by patterns typical of continents or by the patterns typical of oceans. Average values of energy balance components for individual continents and oceans (Table-3) show that in three continents (Europe, North America and South America) greater share of energy radiation balance is expended on evaporation. In the remaining three continents (Asia, Africa and Australia) where dry climates prevail, opposite is true.

Energy balance components of three oceans show little difference from each other. For each ocean the sum of heat expenditure on evaporation and turbulent heat exchange is close to the magnitude of radiation balance. This means that the heat exchange among different oceans resulting from currents does not exert any substantial influence on the heat balances of individual oceans.

The values of the components of energy balance for Earth a whole show that in oceans approximately 90% of the energy of radiation balance is expended on evaporation and only 10% on direct turbulent heating of atmosphere. These magnitudes are nearly same on land. For Earth as a whole, 83% of the energy of radiation balance is expended on evaporation 17% on turbulent heat exchange.

The values of the components of energy balance for the Earth as a whole are shown in FigURE-2. Overall yearly flux of solar radiation entering outer boundary of troposphere is approximately 1000 kcal/sq. cm. Due to the spherical shape of Earth, about 25% of this yearly flux (i.e. 250 kcal/sq.cm), passes through a unit surface of the upper boundary of troposphere. Assuming that Earth’s albedo (As) is 0.33, short-wave radiation absorbed by Earth represented by Qs(1-As) is approximately 167 kcal/sq. cm/year. Out of this, short-wave radiation reaching Earth’s surface is 126 kcal/sq. cm/year. Average value of albedo at Earth’s surface (A) is 0.14. This takes into account the differences in value of incoming solar radiation in various regions. Thus the amount of short-wave radiation absorbed at Earth’s surface, represented by Q(1-A), is 108 kcal/sq. cm/year and 18 kcal/sq. cm/year is reflected back from the surface. The atmosphere absorbs about 59 kcal/sq. cm/year which is substantially less than that absorbed at Earth’s surface. Since radiation balance of Earth’s surface (R) is 72 kcal/sq. cm/year, average effective radiation of Earth’s surface (I) comes to be 360 kcal/sq. cm/year. Overall value of Earth’s long-wave radiation (Is) is quite close to 167 kcal/sq. cm/year. The ratio I/Is much less than the ratio Q(1-A)/Qs(1-As). This difference shows that greenhouse effect has very large influence on the thermal processes of Earth. Due to this effect, Earth receives about 72 kcal/sq.cm/year of radiation energy. This energy is partly expended on evaporation of water (LE = 60 kcal/sq. cm/year) and partly returned to the atmosphere by turbulent heat losses (P = 12 kcal/sq. cm/year). Thus, the energy balance of atmosphere has following components:

(i) Heat inflow from absorbed short-wave radiation = 59 kcal/sq. cm/year

(ii) Heat inflow from condensation of water vapor (Lr) = 60 kcal/sq. cm/year

(iii) Heat inflow from turbulent heat losses at the Earth’s surface = 12 kcal/sq. cm/year

(iv) Heat expenditure on effective radiation into outer space (Is – I) = 131 kcal/sq. cm/year.

The last figure corresponds to the sum of first three components of energy balance.


The temperature of a planet irradiated by solar radiation can be estimated by balancing the amount of radiation absorbed (Ra) against the amount of outgoing radiation (Ro). The Ra will be the product of:

(i) Solar irradiance (I)

(ii) Area of planet. Area of planet relevant for such calculations is the area of the planet as seen by incoming radiation which is given by πr2 where r = radius of the planet.

(iii) Absorbed fraction of radiation. The fraction of radiation that is absorbed is given by (1 – A where A = albedo of planet. This albedo represents the fraction of radiation that is reflected back from the planet.

Thus the energy absorbed by the planet will be:

Ra = I πρ2 (1 – A)

Intensity of outgoing radiation of a body is given by Stefan-Boltzmann Law i.e.
Io = σ T4
where σ = Stefan-Boltzmann Constant = 5.6 x 10-8 Wm-2 K-4. The total energy radiated by the planet will be the product of the intensity of outgoing radiation (Io) and the area of the whole planetary surface giving out radiation (4 π r 2). Thus the outgoing radiation (Ro) from the planet is given by:

Ro = 4 πr2 σ T4

Effective planetary temperature

Since Ra = Ro i.e. system is assumed to be in steady-state where radiation absorbed and outgoing radiation are equal, an expression for the effective planetary temperature (Te)can be obtained from the above equation and it may be given by:

Te = [I – (1 – A)/4 σ]0.25
In this expression of effective planetary temperature, effect of atmosphere has not been taken into account. For Earth, solar irradiance (I) at the top of atmosphere is about 1.4 x 103/m2/s and albedo of Earth as a whole is about 0.33. From these values, the calculated equilibrium temperature of Earth comes to be 254 K. However, the actual observed average ground level temperature of Earth is about 288 K. This higher effective temperature of Earth from the calculated value is due to the greenhouse-effect of atmosphere.

The black-body spectrum of Earth at 288 K shows that radiation from Earth is of much longer wavelength and is at much lower intensity than radiation from Sun. The absorption spectrum of Earth’s atmosphere overlaps fairly well with the solar emission spectrum. Except for a very narrow window in the absorption bands, much of the long-wave radiations from Earth correspond with the region of absorption in the atmosphere. This means that much of the incoming radiation reaches the Earth’s surface while the outgoing thermal radiation is largely absorbed by the atmosphere rather than being lost to space. Thus, the effect of atmosphere is to trap the outgoing thermal radiation. and this effect is termed green-house effect.. The thermal radiation i.e. the heat trapped by the atmosphere due to green-house effect is responsible for the effective temperature of Earth being higher than the temperature calculated without taking into account the effect of atmosphere. In general, absorption of re-emitted long-wave radiation and vertical mixing processes determine the temperature profile of the lower part of atmosphere (troposphere) which in turn determine the Earth’s temperature.

Optical depth of atmosphere and Earth’s surface temperature
The atmosphere is not transparent to the outgoing long-wave radiation and much of this radiation is absorbed in the lower part of the atmosphere, which as a result, is warmer than the upper parts. Simple radiative equilibrium models have been developed for Earth and to account for this effect, these models divide the atmosphere into layers that are just thick enough to absorb the outgoing radiation. These atmospheric layers are said to be optically thick and the atmosphere is discussed in terms of its optical depth based on the number of these atmospheric layers of different optical thickness. Earth’s atmosphere is sometimes said to have two layers while that of planet Venus has almost 70 layers which are largely due to enormous amount of CO2 in the atmosphere of Venus. The radiation equilibrium model indicates that the effective planetary temperature (Te) is thus related to ground-level planetary temperature (Tg) by the equation:

Tg4 = (1 – τ)Te4 (where τ = optical depth of atmosphere)

The optical depth of atmosphere increases with increase in atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and water vapor because both these are principal atmospheric absorbers of outgoing long-wave radiation. With increasing concentrations of CO2 in lower layers of atmosphere, other such gases that are responsible for radiating heat to outer space are pushed to slightly higher and colder levels of atmosphere. The radiating gases will radiate heat less efficiently because they are colder at higher altitudes. Thus, the atmosphere becomes less efficient radiator of heat and this results in rise of atmospheric temperature. This rise in atmospheric temperature, in turn, leads to more evaporation and increase in atmospheric water vapor, which is a greenhouse gas and further increases the absorption of outgoing long-wave thermal radiation. This positive feedback results in further increase in atmospheric temperature. The model also suggests that increase in atmospheric CO2 is associated with decrease in temperatures of upper (stratospheric).

Vertical heat transport and Earth’s surface temperature
Simple models of radiation balance of atmosphere do not take into account various other processes that transport heat vertically in the atmosphere and, therefore, overestimate the surface temperature of Earth. Convection is major process of vertical heat transport and is very important in lowering the surface temperature. Convection occurs because warm air is lighter than cool air and so rises upwards carrying heat from Earth’s surface to the upper atmosphere. As warm air rises up, it expands due to fall in pressure and work done in expansion causes it to cool adiabatically. Thus,

Cv ΔT = – P ΔV (where Cv = molar heat capacity at constant volume)

Ideal gas equation PV = RT takes the differential form P dV + V dP = R dt which may be rearranged in incremental form as:

– P ΔV + R ΔΤ = V ΔP
This equation may be combined with equation Cv ΔT = – P ΔV using the fact that Cp – Cv = R, where Cp = molar heat capacity at constant pressure = 29.05 J/mol/K. This results in following equation:

Cp ΔT = (Cv + R) ΔT = – P ΔV + R ΔT = V ΔP = (RT/P) ΔP ………….(a)

It can be shown that P/P = – Mmg Δz /RT where Mm = mean molecular weight of air = 0.028966 kg/mol; g = acceleration due to gravity = 9.8065 m/s/s; z = altitude. This gives:

RT/P = – Mmg Δz/ ΔP……………………………………………….(b)

Substitution of the above equation (b) in equation (a) gives:

Cp ΔT = – Mmg Δz

or, ΔT/ Δz = – (Mmg/Cp)

For Earth’s atmosphere, the lapse rate ( ΔT/ Δz) works out to be -9.8 K/km for dry air. However, the air is usually wet and as it rises up, it releases latent heat so the measured lapse rate is -6.5 K/km.

If atmospheric temperature falls much less slowly with height than the lapse rate (or even rises with height) then inversion conditions exist and air is very stable with respect to vertical convective mixing. Conversely, if temperature falls very rapidly with height, at a rate greater than lapse rate, then the atmosphere is unstable and convective mixing will be active.

Short-wave radiation and temperature

The discussion till now has assumed total transparency of atmosphere to incoming solar radiation. Though it is true for visible range of radiation, it is not true for ultra-violet region of the solar spectrum. Though the amount of such short-wave radiation is very small, it has important consequences for the temperature of Earth-atmosphere system.

Various ultra-violet wavelengths are absorbed in the atmosphere at different heights. AT just over 40 km, absorption of ultra-violet radiation by ozone results in considerable warming of stratosphere and in this zone, temperature rises with altitude. Average temperature of stratosphere is 250 K. Considering it to be a black-body radiator, maximum power radiation would be expected at 11.5 μm. This value is very close to absorption band of carbon dioxide which means that this gas also plays important role in stratospheric temperature. Increase in concentration of carbon dioxide in stratosphere might allow more effective radiation from stratosphere and, therefore, its cooling. This effect is quite opposite to that noted for troposphere.

Further, at the altitude of thermosphere, atmosphere is very thin. In this zone, molecules are exposed to unattenuated solar radiation of extremely short wavelength i.e. of high energy. This radiation arises from the outer region of Sun. At wavelengths below 50 nm, effective emission temperature exceeds 10,000 K. High-energy solar protons of such wavelengths are absorbed by gas molecules giving them high transitional energies i.e. high temperatures. The energies may be large enough to dissociate oxygen and nitrogen. Temperatures in thermosphere undergo wide variations depending upon the state of Sun. During solar disturbances, very much enhanced output of high-energy protons results in very high atmospheric temperatures.

Temperature in this zone may further be increased by another mechanism. The temperature is normally defined in terms of transitional energy but absorption and emission of radiation occur through vibrational and rotational changes. In upper atmosphere, the frequency of molecular collisions is relatively low and so exchange of translational, vibrational and rotational energies is infrequent. Hence the cooling of thermosphere by re-radiation is very inefficient. The temperature of thermosphere increases with height so it is also stable against convection. Heat can be lost only by very inefficient diffusion processes and as a result, thermospheric temperatures are extremely high.


The Earth’s hydrological cycle includes exchange of water in its various forms, between the hydrosphere, atmosphere, upper layers of lithosphere and the biosphere (living organisms). The corresponding process is described in terms of the equations of a water balance defined for each of the individual component of environment.

Water balance of land surface
Water balance equation for land surface may be given as:

r = E + fw + G

where, r = precipitation; E = evaporation at Earth’s surface which is equal to the difference between evaporation and condensation at Earth’s surface; fw = surface runoff; G = flow of moisture from Earth’s surface to deeper layers.

The above equation of water balance of land surface equates to zero the algebraic sum of all types of water inflows and expenditures, in solid, liquid and gaseous states entering a horizontal sector of surface from the surrounding space a specified interval of time. This equation is generally used in a slightly modified form. If water balance for a vertical column passing through the upper layers of lithosphere and reaching the depth at which moisture exchange with deeper layer stops is taken into consideration the vertical flow of water in lithosphere (G) is given as:
G = fp + b
where, fp = run-off within the soil; b = change in water content in upper layers of lithosphere.

Further, the full run-off i.e. run-off normal (f) is given as:

f = fp + fw

where, fp = run-off within the soil; fw = surface run-off.

Taking the equations for G and f into consideration, the water balance equation for land surface becomes:

r = E + f + b

Relation between energy and water balance on land
Important indicative characteristics of hydrological regime on land are:
(a) Run-off normal (f): It is the volume of water flowing off on the average during a year from a unit of land surface in form of various horizontal flows;
(b) Coefficient of run-off (f/r): It is the ratio of run- normal to total yearly precipitation.

(c) Radiation index of dryness (R/Lr): It is the ratio of the total radiation energy received to total energy expended on precipitation.

Evaporation is one the major processes of transformation of solar energy at Earth’s surface and it very much affects the yearly run-off. Thus, run-off normal and coefficient of run-off are linked to principal components of energy balance. Following general considerations apply to relation between elements of energy and water balance on land:

(i) Average total evaporation from land surface (E) depends on the quantity of precipitation r and inflow of solar energy. Evaporation increases with increase in and radiation balance r. If soil is dry, total precipitation is caught by molecular forces on soil particles and eventually expended on evaporation. In such conditions (e.g. in deserts), run-off coefficient (f/r) approaches zero.

Since the average dryness of soil increases when inflow of radiation energy increases and amount of precipitation decreases. Thus:

f/r —> 0 or E/r —-> 1 when R/Lr —-> ∞

(ii) With decrease in value of R/Lr, value of E/ralso declines and certain run-off appears. For sufficiently high value of total precipitation and sufficiently small value of total inflow of radiation, a state of full moistening of the upper layers of soil will be achieved. In such cases, the maximum portion of heat energy available from all sources will be expended on evaporation. The value of this expenditure may be calculated by considering the valve nature of the latent heat exchange between underlying surface and the atmosphere.

Experimental studies have shown that turbulent heat conductivity of lower layers of atmosphere depends substantially on the direction of vertical turbulent heat flow. If the direction of this flow is from Earth to atmosphere, values of turbulent heat flow become higher due to increased turbulent mixing and the values become close to the values of the main components of radiation and heat balances. If direction of turbulent heat flow is from atmosphere to Earth, inverting temperature distribution reduces exchange intensity and turbulent heat flow becomes small. Thus, turbulent heat-flow is higher in daytime than in night and in middle latitudes turbulent heat exchange in winters is low than summers. As a result of the valve effect, average turbulent heat moves from Earth’s surface to atmosphere in nearly all climatic zones of land i.e. yearly sums of turbulent heat flows are positive. Thus yearly turbulent heat flows can not produce substantial inflows of energy to underlying surface and heat expenditure on evaporation are compensated only by the radiation balance. As a result the upper boundary for LE equal to R. Therefore, in condition of full saturation of upper soil layers, it may be assumed that:
LE à R when R/Lr à 0
Linkage equation for water and energy (heat) balance: The relation between water balance and energy (heat) balance of the land may be described by the equation:

E/r = Φ (R/Lr)

The form of the function Φ for R/Lr à 0 and for R/r à ∞ is determined by respective conditions considered above in (i) and (ii).

The most important consideration related to this equation is that the magnitude of possible evaporation at a locality is determined by the radiation balance corresponding to the conditions of sufficient moisture at which vegetation can exist. The values of radiation balance at a locality differ in conditions of sufficient and insufficient moisture. The reasons for this variation may be summarized as below:

(a) In moist regions of humid climate, albedo of Earth’s surface shows little change with change in humidity. The average difference between temperatures of Earth’s surface and air is relatively small in the presence of sufficient moisture. Therefore, magnitude of evaporation may be approximately inferred from the radiation balance corresponding to the actual state of Earth’s surface.

In regions of dry climate, albedo and temperature surface changes with increasing humidity. The Earth’s surface temperature approaches the air temperature in condition of sufficient moisture. Evidently, the magnitude of evaporation has to be determined from the value of radiation balance corresponding to the albedo of a moist surface and to to a temperature at Earth’s surface that is equal to air temperature.
Comparison of R/Lr and E/r values for observed data of river basins on different continents was made was made (Fig. 18). This has allowed verification of the important considerations concerning relations between E/r and R/Lr for both small and large values of R/Lr, The ratio E/r for low values of R/r is represented as straight line OA according to condition given in (ii). Similarly, the ratio E/r for large values of R/Lr is represented as straight line AB according to condition given in (i). The experimental points representing values of E/r are calculated from water balance data by averaging E/r for specific intervals of R/Lr. The experimental points clearly show a smooth transition from line OA to line OB, which as expected, are limiting values for the relation between E/r and R/Lr.

Important features of linkage equation
(a) The figure shows that the relationship on which linking of energy and water balances is based is largely determined by two limiting conditions. One condition corresponds to the valve mechanism of turbulent heat exchange in the layer adjoining Earth while second condition corresponds obviously the small value of coefficient of run-off (f/r) in dry climates. The corresponding relation for most of the interval of changes in the parameters of the linkage equation remains close to a boundary condition. Therefore, selection of one or the other interpolation function for passing from first to second condition is not particularly significant.

Thus despite semi-empirical nature of the linkage equation it can be justified mainly with the general considerations. Further, this equation represents a supplementary relationship, which is independent of the energy balance and water balance equations.

(b) The above linkage relation may be analytically represented by employing the following equation which represents the relation between average yearly evaporation and the radiation balance:


E = /Rr/L th Lr/R (1 – ch R/Lr + sh R/Lr)

where, th is a function for hyperbolic tangent, ch and sh are hyperbolic cosine and sine respectively.

Since run-off normal (f) is equal to difference between precipitation and evaporation (f = r – E), equations representing f and f/r in terms of above equation will be:


f = r – /Rr/L th Lr/R (1 – ch R/Lr + sh R/Lr)


f/r = 1 – /R/L th Lr/R (1 – ch R/Lr + sh R/Lr)

These relations between components of energy and water balance have been verified in a number of studies.

(c) The linkage equation makes it possible to represent the relation of run-off and evaporation to total yearly precipitation and the radiation balance in a general form (Fig. 2). The regularity explains a number of empirical relations between run-off and precipitation found in various studies.

(d) The linkage equation also makes possible to express dependence of run-off on precipitation for values of radiation balance corresponding to various localities (Fig. 3). Curve A in figure represents the relation of run-off normal and yearly precipitation calculated for average conditions in European lowlands using the equation. Curve B represents the empirical relation found by H. Keller (1906) on the basis of observation at West European rivers and curve C represents the empirical relation found by D. L. Sokolovsky (1936) on the basis of observation on East European rivers. Correspondence of empirical curves B and C with calculated curve A verifies the universal nature of the linkage equation.

(e) In calculation of average empirical dependence of run-off on precipitation in data from various regions, considerable dispersion in the dependence has been observed. The linkage equation makes it possible to explain this dispersion. There is substantial variability of radiation balance in middle latitudes. This variability causes the run-off of basins with large radiation balance (in more southerly regions) to be much smaller than that of basins with low radiation balance (in more northerly regions) for equal total precipitation values. This also influences the rate of change in run-off corresponding to increases in precipitation (df/dr). The linkage equation indicates that this rate should be larger in northern basins than in southern basins. Empirical data amply confirms this prediction of linkage equation.

(f) The calculations of run-off based on linkage equation correspond with the observed data. This confirms the decisive role of climatic factors, particularly of energy factors, in total yearly run-off in large river basins with areas comparable with geographical zones. In case of small areas river run-off may change substantially as a result of local conditions of non-climatic nature.

Water balance of water bodies

The above water balance equation can also be used to calculate water balances of water bodies and also of individual sectors within such bodies. In such cases, f will describe the total redistribution of water along the horizontal plane during the time interval under consideration both within the water body itself and in layers of underlying soil (in cases where significant redistribution of moisture at such levels does occur). Similarly, b for a closed water body will also be equal to overall change in the water content both within the body of water itself and in underlying layers in those cases in which there are perceptible changes in moisture content. In many cases, b usually describes changes in levels. For an average period of one year, b is often quite negligible and the water balance equation becomes:

r = E + f

For land surfaces having no run-off, e.g. deserts, f = 0 and the water balance equation takes the form:

r = E

Water balance of atmosphere

At a particular place in the atmosphere, the water is brought by evaporation from the Earth’s surface and is removed by precipitation or air currents and horizontal turbulent exchange.

The water balance equation for atmosphere is, therefore, obtained by summing all the categories of inflow and expenditure of moisture within a vertical column passing through the atmosphere and is given as:

E = r + Ca + ba

where, Ca = quantity of moisture received or lost by vertical column due to air currents and horizontal turbulent exchange; ba = change in quantity of water in the column.

Since the atmosphere can retain only very small quantities of water in all its various states, value of ba is usually much less than other quantities. Its average value over a period of one year is always close to zero and the water balance equation becomes:

E = r + Ca

The atmosphere receives a considerable amount of moisture through transpiration of plants which usually represents several tens percent of total evaporation. Therefore, transpiration may exert a considerable influence on the atmospheric water exchange and hence, on the volume of precipitation. In studying this influence principles governing atmospheric water exchange are important. These principles have been formulated in quantitative theory of water exchange discussed below.

1. Flow of water vapor brought by air currents to a territory: For a territory whose average linear scale is L, this flow may be assumed to be wu where w = atmospheric moisture content in the windward side of area and u = average velocity of air flows carrying water vapor over the territory. There will be change in w along air current’s path according to the difference between precipitation (r) and evaporation (E).

2. Flow of water vapor carried away by air currents from the territory: This flow from the territory will be:

wu – (r -E)L.

3. The overall flow of water vapor carried over the territory: This is made of two subflows:

(i) Flow of external (advective) water vapor: It is the moisture originating outside the territory by evaporative processes and brought to the territory. On the windward side of area, it is equal to wu while on leeward side (as flow leaves the area’s boundaries), it will be wu – raL where, ra precipitation produced by this advective water vapor in area. On average such flow over a territory is given by:

wu – 0.5 raL

(ii) Flow of local water vapor: It is the moisture originating within the area by local evaporation. In areas having plant cover, it consists mainly of transpiration. This local flow is equal to zero on windward side and (E – rl)L on leeward side where rl = total precipitation produced from this local water vapor in the area. On average such flow over a territory is given by:

0.5(E – rl)L

Thus, the overall flow of water vapor over the territory produced by these two subflows together is given by:

wu – 0.5(r -E)L


r = ra + rl

The molecules of water vapor of external origin and local origin are mixed in the atmosphere during turbulent exchange. Therefore, the ratio of total precipitation derived from external water vapor and that derived from local water vapor is equal to the ratio of the quantity of corresponding molecules of water vapor in the atmosphere. In short, it may be assumed that:

ra/rl = [wu – 0.5 raL] / [0.5(E – rl)L]

This gives two equations:

(a) ra = r / [1 + EL/2wu];

(b) rl = r / [1 + 2wu/EL]

Coefficient of water exchange (K): This is equal to the ratio of total precipitation ® to precipitation from advective moisture (ra). It is determined from the equation for ra and given as:

K = r/ra = 1 + [EL/2wu]

The above equation shows that:

(i) The K depends on the factors determining water (vapor) balance in the atmosphere.

(ii) Relations in formulae for ra, rl and K depend on the size of territory under consideration. With increase in scale L, rl and K increase but ra decreases. For sufficiently territories, actual dependence of K on their size is not linear. For large territories, average rate of transfer of water vapor (u) somewhat declines due to curvature of air particle trajectories.

Contribution of local evaporation to total precipitation

Direct contribution: Data of water exchange over all the continents of Earth given by O. A. Drozdov and associates is given in the following table. The data shows that the principal source of water vapor for precipitation over continents is advective water vapor, which originates as oceanic evaporation. Owing to large-scale transfer of oceanic water vapor in the Earth’s atmosphere, direct contribution of local evaporation processes from the surface of continents to the total volume of precipitation is relatively modest, especially for the territories of dimensions less than 1 million square kilometers. However, influence of local evaporation on total precipitation is not limited to changes in the components of atmospheric water exchange only but includes indirect influence also.
Indirect influence: The indirect influence of local evaporation on totalprecipitation derives from the linkage between the volume of precipitation and the relative humidity atmosphere.

Studies of Drozdov (1963) have shown that volume of total precipitation may be established by following semi-empirical formula:

r = aw f(h)

where, r = total precipitation; h = average relative humidity within atmospheric layer upto 7 km altitude; w = atmospheric moisture content; a = proportionality coefficient which is equal to 1 when total precipitation of 0.1 w per day falls for 100% h.

Empirical function f(h) is generally similar for many regions of middle latitudes. The formula may be employed to establish the effect of local evaporation processes on total precipitation. The values of w and h are then determined according to the influence of local evaporation on the overall quantity of water vapor being carried over the given territory. In this connection, it becomes clear that the influence of local evaporation on total precipitation within specific limits of air humidity may be several times larger than the contribution of local evaporation to overall volume of atmospheric water vapor.

Studies of Drozdov have shown that without the large role that is often played by the indirect influence of local evaporation on precipitation, the continental regions at distance from ocean would have been transformed into deserts.

Effect of plant cover on precipitation

The precipitation in an area also depends on the plant cover which influences the quantity of local evaporation. It has been observed that when mossy swamps are drained and a forest cover develops in such area, total evaporation appears to increase. The reverse effect is observed when lowland grassy swamps are drained. It may be assumed that the replacement of various types of plant cover changes total evaporation by about 10%.

With the use of formula r = aw f(h) it is indicated that influence of evaporation on precipitation depends on the size of area in which evaporation changes. Within area of linear scale of the order of 1,000 km, the influence of fluctuations in evaporation on precipitation is negligible. However, this influence may be substantial in case of changes in evaporation over entire continents or large parts of continents.

It is possible that during Lower Palaeozoic era when plant cover existed on continents, the ability of upper layers of lithosphere to retain water was quite limited. Under such conditions, evaporation from land would be low and run-off high. Since this condition of water balance components existed over large areas of Earth, it exerted substantial influence on precipitation on continents. With appearance of plant cover on land, soil formation increased which caused increase in evaporation and decrease in run-off. Thus with increasing land area coming under plant cover, volume of atmospheric precipitation also increased. This in turn contributed to further increase in spread of plant cover within continents. Thus a positive feedback relation exists between living organisms and their environment which has contributed to spread of plant cover over much of land surface. However, this feedback relation could alter precipitation only in areas having favourable conditions of atmospheric circulation.

Water balance of whole Earth

If water balance of Earth as a whole is considered, the horizontal redistribution of water is of no importance and the water balance equation simplifies to:

r = E

The average yearly values of precipitation, evaporation and run-off for different continents and oceans is given in following Table-5. Features of water balance of Earth can be discussed on the basis of these values.

(1) For each continent, evaporation is equal to the difference between precipitation and run-off.

(2) The ratio of evaporation to run-off differs greatly on various continents. In Australia evaporation is close to precipitation. In all other continents except Africa, evaporation is less than about 66% of the sum of precipitation.

(3) The difference between evaporation from the surface of World Ocean and precipitation is equal to the river run-off from continents into the oceans.

(4) For the individual ocean, evaporation is equal to the sum of the river run-off into it and horizontal transfer of water from other oceans through global oceanic circulation processes. It is difficult to determine the magnitude of horizontal transfer through direct methods because it represents difference between two small values of inflow and outflow of water. Determination of both values is subject to significant errors. It may be simpler to estimate the exchange of water between oceans as a residual element in the water balance. The accuracy of estimates in this case is also limited.

(i) For Atlantic Ocean sum of precipitation and run-off is less than the magnitude of evaporation. It is clear that this ocean receives water from other oceans including Arctic Ocean where evaporation is substantially smaller than the sum of precipitation and river run-off.

(ii) In Indian Ocean, sum of precipitation and run-off is somewhat smaller than the magnitude of evaporation while in the Pacific Ocean, the sum of precipitation and run-off is larger than evaporation, which reflects a transfer of water into other oceans.

(5) Values of precipitation and evaporation for land and oceans indicate that for the Earth as a whole, the magnitude of precipitation over a year is 113 cm, which is equal to that of evaporation.

(6) Calculations of the values of precipitation and evaporation for various latitudinal zones show that the inflow of water vapor into the atmosphere from evaporation may be both larger and smaller in different latitudinal zones than its expenditure on precipitation. The source of water vapor in atmosphere is provided by high-pressure zones where evaporation is much more than precipitation. That surplus water is expended in zones adjacent to the Equator and, also at middle and high latitudes where precipitation is much more than evaporation.

(7) The difference between precipitation and evaporation is also equal to the difference between the inflow of water vapor into the atmosphere and the outflow resulting from the horizontal air movement. The large difference in these two in many regions indicates the importance of the transfer of atmospheric water vapor in the formation of precipitation. The influence of transfer of water vapor on the volume of precipitation has been examined in the studies of hydrological cycle in the atmosphere.

(8) The components of continental and oceanic water balance are not constant and change as a result of climatic fluctuations and other factors. Since changes in the components of water balance over a year are small in comparison with their absolute values, they may be neglected in determining the corresponding magnitudes. On the other hand, data on changes in water balance components may be very important in the studies of the evolution of hydrosphere.

(9) During glaciation periods, large masses of water used up in formation of continental ice sheets and volume of water in the World Ocean had changed. At the termination of last glaciation, approximately 20 thousand years ago, the level of World Ocean was lower by about 100 meters than it is today. Subsequently the level gradually increased and reached the present level about 5,000 years ago and has not significantly changed since then.

(10) Observations have shown that in the 20th century, level of World Ocean has increased by about 15 cm while reserves of subsoil water on land and volume of water in many lakes have declined. Though sources of water contributing to rise in water level in World Ocean are not absolutely clear, melting of ice covers, loss of groundwater and decrease of water in lakes on land are responsible for the increase in volume of oceanic water.


The study of parameters of radiation and water balance of Earth clearly shows that these parameters differ with latitudes. The interactions of these parameters of radiation and water balance are responsible for particular meteorological conditions in different regions of Earth which, in turn, result in climatic zones. Further, the biosphere of Earth, particularly the plant cover over land surface is characteristically dependent on the climatic conditions of a particular region. Thus, a number of distinct biogeographical zones can be recognized over Earth’s surface on the basis of characteristic climate, soil and plant cover. Dokuchavev for the first time observed that the boundaries of biogeographical zones are largely determined by climatic factors and are particularly dependent on moisture conditions. His classical studies included estimates of the ratios of precipitation to potential evaporation for major biogeographical zones of Earth. Various studies after him examined the relationship of soil and forest types with ratios of precipitation to potential evaporation. Grigoriyev and Budyko in comprehensive studies of global environment identified the most important parameters of radiation and water balance which determine the biogeographical zonality and gave the Law of Geographical Zonality.


Budyko showed that equations for mean yearly heat and water balances of land may be written in the following form:

R/Lr = E/r + P/Lr and 1 = E/r + f/r

(the members of heat balance equation are divided by Lr and those of water balance equation by r).

The linkage equation of water and heat balance may then be added to these relations:

E/r = @ (R/Lr)

These equations link four relative values of components of heat and water balances. Therefore, it is sufficient to know any one of them for determining the others. Owing to special form of the linkage equation, ratio R/Lr or P/Lr may be selected as the parameter that determines all relative values of the components of heat and water balances. The ratios E/r and f/r can not be decisive factor for the first two variables in case of dry climates when small changes in E/r or f/r produce large changes in R/Lr or P/Lr. Further, it seems more appropriate to select R/Lr as the principal parameter determining the relative values of the components of heat and water balances. This parameter may also be viewed as the ratio of potential evaporation R/L to precipitation r, or else as a ratio of the radiation balance of a moistened surface to heat expended on the evaporation of the total yearly precipitation

While the relative values of components of heat and water balances are determined by one parameter R/Lr, the determination of absolute values of these components requires two parameters namely R/Lr and R.

It has been shown by Budyko that it is possible to calculate potential evaporation from the radiation balance at the Earth’s surface. The method for calculating potential evaporation from air humidity deficit as various other empirical methods yield less accurate results.

A world map of the radiation index of dryness (R/Lr) has been constructed by Budyko (1955). A comparison of this map with geobotanical and soil maps confirms that the positions of isoclines of the index of dryness confirm well to the distribution of major climatic and biogeographical zones. It has been shown that the radiation index of dryness accords well with the boundaries of major natural climatic and biogeographical zones. In general, values of the radiation index of dryness (< 1/3) correspond to tundras, values between 1/3 and 1 to forest zone, from 1 to 2 to the steppe zone, more than 2 to semi-desert zone and more than 3 to the desert zone. Further, within particular zones at various latitudes substantial differences in conditions determining the development of natural processes can be observed. These differences derive from the fact that the energy base of natural processes may be characterized through the magnitude of the radiation balance R and it differs at various latitudes. Accordingly, while it may be possible to make use of single parameter R/L in characterizing general zonal conditions of natural processes, the characterization of absolute values of the intensity of natural processes requires the use of two parameters i.e. R/Lr and R which determine the absolute magnitudes of the elements of heat and water balances.

The relation of biogeographical conditions with the parameters R/r and R plotted along its axes and on which major biogeographical zones are divided by straight lines. A schematic form of such a graph is given in Fig.

While the use of more accurate precipitation normals found with help of currently available measuring instruments introduce certain changes in the characteristic values of moisture indices, this does not alter the general patterns of the relation of moisture indices to biogeographical zones. The close relationship of parameters R/Lr and R with biogeographical zones has been examined and named the Law of Geographical Zonality (Grigoriyev and Budyko; 1956, 1962). It was specifically noted that within each latitudinal belt there exists a definite correspondence between the boundaries of natural zones and the isoclines for particular values of R/Lr. Table- represents the overall structure. In the compilation of the table, use was made of the values of R relating to the conditions of moistened surface and of more detailed data on precipitation and plant cover in various regions. To each section in the table, characterizing gradations of moisture conditions correspond to specific values of the coefficients of river run-offs. At the same time, yearly run-off normal in each section increases as radiation balance increases. However, this does not apply to desert areas where the run-off at low latitudes is close to zero. Important conclusions of the Law of Geographical Zonality are discussed below.

1. R/Lr and botanical zones: Similar types of plant cover correspond to each section in the table. In conditions of excessive moisture, forests are prevalent at all latitudes except for areas with substantial excess of moisture i.e. R/r < 2/5. In such cases, forests are replaced by tundras at high latitudes and by swamps at lower latitudes. Since R/r < 2/5 over vast territories is found only at relatively high latitudes, swampy areas at low latitudes can not be viewed as autonomous biogeographical zones. It should be noted that the ordinate represents values of the radiation balance for actual state of Earth’s surface, which differ from the values of the radiation balance for moistened surfaces. The continuous line on the graph bounds the region of actually occurring values of R/r and R (except for mountainous regions) within whose ranges specific values of R/Lr, which are shown as vertical lines, delimit the major botanical zones. Large changes in the values of radiation balance for forest zone correspond to perceptible geobotanical changes within these zones in spite of the common features of their plant covers.

Each gradation in moistening is characterized not only by a definite type of plant cover but also by a specific value of its productivity. In the studies of Grigoriyev and Budyko (1956, 1962), it was assumed that the productivity of natural vegetation increases as the moisture conditions approach optimal ones for a given radiation balance and for given moisture conditions, productivity increases with increase in radiation balance.

2. R and R/Lr and soil zones: It has long been established that there exists a close relationship between the zonality of plant covers and the zonality of soils. Therefore, the conclusions concerning the relation of botanical zones to specific values of parameters R and R/Lr can be fully applied to soil zones as well. It can be established that as the values of parameter R/Lr increase, soil types change in the following sequence:

(i) Tundra soils;

(ii) Podzols, brown forest soils, yellow soils, red soils and laterite soils (the diversity of soil types within that group corresponds to changes in the parameter R within the broad range);

(iii) Chernozems and black soils of savannah regions;

(iv) Chestnut brown soils;

(v) Grey soils.

General relation of soil zonality to climatic indices R/Lr and R may be represented as a graph similar to the graph for botanical zones. Considering the Table-, to each section of the table, there corresponds a specific sequence of changes in soil types which is largely similar within each section. Fro example, the third section is characterized by following sequence of soil types: tundras, podzols and brown forest soils, subtropical red soils and yellow soils, tropical podzol red soils and laterites. For the fourth section, the sequence is chernozems and dark chestnut soils, black soils and brown soils, weakly leached subtropical soils, red brown tropical soils etc. To each such sequence there correspond specific values of quantitative characteristics of the process of soil formation. The region of eternal snow occupies a special place within the table. It is described by negative value of R and R/Lr due to practical absence of plant and soil covers. Similarly, the subzone of Arctic deserts has negligible values of yearly radiation balance and a high humidity.

3. R/Lr and R and zonality of hydrological regime of land: The relation of the zonality of hydrological regime of land to parameters R/Lr and R may be established on both quantitative and qualitative terms. From the linkage equation it follows that to each gradation in value of parameter R/Lr there corresponds specific gradation in the value of run-off coefficient. A consideration of the influence of energy factors makes it possible to explain the zonal changes in run-off coefficients in quantitative terms. The absolute values of total run-off are determined by two parameters, namely R/Lr and R. Graph in Fig. which is similar to that in Fig. represents the distribution of yearly total run-off and characterizes the absolute values of run-off in different biogeographical zones.

From the above discussion, it is evident that the patterns in the Table-6 of Geographical Zones may be explained in terms of the following factors:

1. Latitudinal difference in Earth’s surface radiation balance: Owing to the spherical shape of Earth, its surface is divided into several latitudinal belts that differ in terms of radiation energy inflow to the surface of Earth.

2. Differences in moisture conditions: Within each of these belts (except for the region of eternal snow) there exist different moisture conditions ranging from excessive to highly insufficient moisture. These differences in moisture conditions within each latitudinal belt are responsible for the zonality within the belt..

Within different latitudinal belts, geographical conditions with similar moisture indices have a certain number of common characteristics, which are combined with differences resulting from different inflows of radiation energy. These common characteristics are periodically repeated as regions of two latitudinal belts in which humidity (or dryness) increases) are compared with each other.

The influence of climatic factors on biogeographical zones may be represented more clearly by considering the specific features of the climatic regimes in different seasons. In specifying the climatic conditions of particular seasons, following major types of climatic regimes may be identified:

1. Arctic climatic regime: It is characterized by the sow cover, negative air temperatures and negative values of radiation balance or else values close to zero.

2. Tundra climatic regimes: Such climatic regimes have average monthly temperatures ranging from zero to 10o C and a small positive radiation-balance.

3. Climatic regimes of forest zones: These have average monthly temperatures of more than 10o C and a positive radiation balance as well as sufficient moisture, when evaporation exceeds one half of the potential evaporation.

4. Climatic regimes of arid zones (Steppes and savannahs): These have a positive radiation balance and actual evaporation ranging from 1/10 to ½ of the potential evaporation.

5. Climatic regimes of deserts: These have positive radiation balance and an evaporation less than 1/10 of potential evaporation.

Important features of seasonal changes in climatic factors determining biogeographical zonality are:

(i) It has been shown that the type of climatic conditions in each month correspond with the type of natural zone throughout the year. However, in most biogeographical regions, several types of climatic regimes replace each other during the year.

(ii) There are substantial differences in seasonal changes of climatic regimes at various longitudes which are especially felt at middle and low latitudes where types of climatic regimes depend on moisture conditions.

(iii) In Africa and Europe, a regime of low humidity exists within a wide latitudinal belt that shifts to the north in summers and to the south in winters. This corresponds to the most favourable conditions in the subtropics in the winter and spring and at tropical latitudes in the summer. In East Asia and North America, the structure of moisture regime differs considerably from the first scheme because of substantial differences in circulation processes.

(iv) In most regions and at all longitudes there is either insufficient moisture (regimes 4 and 5) or insufficient heat (regime 1 & 2) during a major part of the year. Only in the narrow belt close to Equator, conditions corresponding to regime 3 exist throughout the year. Evidently under regimes 2 and 4 and especially under regimes 1 and 5, productivity of natural plant cover is reduced.

(v) Under conditions of insufficient heat the type of biogeographical zone is determined by climatic regime of the period in which productivity of natural plant cover is greatest even if that period is relatively short. For example, the zonal landscape of tundra is determined by conditions of the warm season, which may last no longer than 1/5th to 1/4th of the year. In such cases, climatic regime of the cold season, which extends over most of the year does not determine the landscape’s zonal character.

(vi) In regions of insufficient moisture also a regularity similar to the above one is observed. The most humid period of the year plays a determining role in establishing the type of zone, even though it may be shorter than the period with insufficient moisture. In natural zones with insufficient moisture, there may be short periods of either sufficient or excessive moisture which do not result in development of typical forest growth.

The above described regularities relating the type of biogeographical zone to seasonal changes in the climatic factors determining the zonality, in fact, complement the concept of the influence of climatic factors on biogeographical zonality described earlier in the Law of Geographical Zonality.

Smog chemistry

Filed under: Environment — gargpk @ 1:40 pm


In atmospheres of urban centres, under conditions of relatively low humidity, plenty of sunshine, a large amount of exhaust emissions from motor vehicles and moderate to low wind speeds, photochemical processes lead to a secondary pollution situation commonly termed “photochemical smog’. A large number of compounds and reactions have been characterized in the urban air where such smog situation occurs. The chemistry of this photochemical smog condition is extremely complex. Major photochemical processes associated with this condition have been discussed below.

1. Nitrogen oxide pseudo-equilibrium

The oxides of nitrogen, particularly NO and NO2 are at the root of photochemical smog problem. Oxidation of atmospheric nitrogen during high temperature combustion processes (particularly in motor vehicles) results in formation of NO which is further oxidized to NO2:

(a) O + N2 —-> NO + N

N + O2 —-> NO + O


N2 + O2 —-> 2NO

(b) 2NO + O2 ——> 2NO2

R1 = k1[NO]2[O2] where R1 and R2 are reaction rates and k1 and k2 are the rate

and, constants

NO + O3 —-> NO2 + O2

R2 = k2[NO][ O3]

The reaction of NO with oxygen at the concentrations found even in the polluted air is very slow, therefore, NO2 is mainly produced by oxidation of NO by ozone. In the polluted air, typical early morning concentrations of ozone and NO are 40 ppb and 80 ppb respectively. Values for k1 and k2 are 1.93 x 10-38 cm6s-1 and 1.8 x 10-14 cm3s-1 for ozone and NO respectively. From these values the calculation shows that R1 = 4.6 x 10-5 cm-3 s-1 and R2 = 3.8 x 1010 cm-3 s-1. This confirms the far greater importance of the oxidation of No by ozone.

The NO2 produced in this way can be photodissociated back to NO. Thus a sequence of reactions describing its destruction and regeneration can be given:

NO2 + hv ( O(3P) + NO

O(3P) + O2 + M ——> O3 + M

O3 + hv (300-330 nm) ——> O2 + O(1D)

O3 + HO2 ——> 2O2 + OH ( R = 1.1 x 10-14)

O3 + NO —–> NO2 + O2 (R = 2.3 x 10-12)

In a volume of air in steady-state where production and destruction rates of NO2 are equal and where oxidation of NO by oxygen is assumed to be unimportant, the reaction rate may be written as:

k2[NO][O3] = J[NO2]

where J is effective first-order rate constant for photodissociation. The equation may be rearranged as:

J/k2 = [NO][O3]/[NO2]

where the term on right-hand side may be ignored as a pseudo-equilibrium constant relating the partial pressures of NO, NO2 and O3. The value of J will varies with change in intensity of sunlight throughout the day. However, measurements have shown that overall the equality implied in this equation holds in the polluted atmosphere. During first half of the day radiation intensity increases which means J will increase and during this period increasing amounts of ozone and NO would be expected. Since both these are produced by destruction of NO2, the amount of ozone should approximately equal the amount of NO.

Measurements from polluted atmospheres show that neither of the above predictions are borne out. The level of NO rises in the early morning but level of ozone rises much more slowly. Further, the fact that the level of NO2 falls by mid-day is even more in contrast to the theoretical prediction. A possible explanation for these observations is that the observed rises and falls in the concentrations of pollutants are merely functions of the pattern of generation and dispersion in the atmosphere.

2. Role of organic molecules in smog

Under constant illumination the rise in the level of ozone indicates a decreasing NO:NO2 ratio in the pseudo-equilibrium. For the latter to happen, another source of oxidant is needed because above described sequence of reactions does not result in any overall production of ozone. However, ozone production in polluted atmosphere may be explained by following scheme.

As in unpolluted atmosphere, oxidation in polluted atmosphere also occurs through reactions in which hydroxyl radical plays a key role. The hydroxyl radical attacks a veriety of pollutants in the urban air resulting in formation of free radicals like methyl radical (CH3), acetyl (CH3CO) and atomic hydrogen (H) which may become involved in subsequent reactions which oxidize to NO to NO2 and regenerate hydroxyl radical at the same time.

(a) Alkanes in smog: Presence of alkanes such as methane in polluted air provides a way in which NO can be oxidized to NO2 without consuming ozone. For example, methane may be oxidized by OH radical to produce methyl radical which further undergoes a series of reactions:

CH4 + OH —-> H2O + CH3 (R = 2.4 x 10-12)

CH3 + O2 +M —-> CH3O2 + M

CH3O2 + NO —-> CH3O + NO2 (R = 7.0 x 10-12)

CH3O + O2 —–> HCHO + HO2 (R = 5.0 x 10-13)

HCHO = hv ( 2 H + CO

CO + OH —–> CO2 + H (R = 1.35 x 10-13)

HO2 + NO —–> NO2 + OH (R = 4.3 x 10-12)

HO2 radical can also react photochemically or with ozone, atomic hydrogen or atomic oxygen to regenerate OH radical. HCHO can photodissociate into atomic hydrogen or react with oxygen to give the HO2 radical and CO.

The above reactions can be summed up and show the importance of methane in generating NO2 in photochemical smog:

CH4 + 2 O2 + 2 NO —-> H2O + HCHO + 2 NO2

This indicates net oxidation of NO in a manner that has not used ozone, therefore, it is different from pseudo-equilibrium situation.

(b) Aldehydes in smog: Aldehydes also provide effective ways of oxidizing NO to NO2. For example, acetaldehyde is attacked by OH radical producing acetyl radical which undergoes following subsequent reactions:

CH3CO + O2 —–> CH3COO2

CH3COO2 + NO —–> NO2 + CH3CO2

CH3CO2 ——> CH3 + CO2

Methyl radical produced is oxidized as described above. There are analogous reactions for higher aldehydes.

(C) Atomic hydrogen in smog: The atomic hydrogen produced by attack of OH on CO or photodissociation of HCHO can react with HO2 radical to produce two OH radicals that can initiate further attack on organic compounds in air.

OH + CO —–> CO2 + H

H + HO2 —–> OH + OH

Atomic hydrogen can also form HO2 radical which can oxidize NO to NO2:

H + O2 + M —–> HO2 + M

HO2 + NO —–> NO2 + OH

In general, hydrocarbons present in the polluted urban air promote the oxidation of NO to NO2 by reactions of the types described above. The NO2 is subsequently photolysed to produce NO for reoxidation and increasing amount of ozone.

NO2 + hv ( O(3P) + NO

O(3P) + O2 + M —–> O3 + M

Though there are losses in the above described scheme, the built-up of ozone throughout the day can thus be well explained.

3. Other products in photochemical smog

A number of other features of photochemical smog can also be explained by photochemical mechanism described above.

1. Formation of PAN: Peroxyacetylnitrate (CH3COO2NO2) or PAN is a major eye-irritant found characteristically in photochemical smog. The peroxyacetyl radical (CH3COO2) produced by attack of acetyl radical on oxygen can combine with NO2 to form PAN:

CH3COO2 + NO2 ——> CH3COO2NO2

PAN is the principal member of a group of rather similar nitrated compounds which includes higher peroxyalkyl compounds such as peroxypropionyl nitrate which has also been detected in low concentrations in photochemical smog. There is also much current interest in the natural production of compounds like PAN.

2. Formation of N2O5 : NO2 is oxidized by ozone to NO3 which subsequently reacts with NO2 to form N2O5. The NO3 may also react with NO to produce more NO2.

NO2 + O3 —-> NO3 + O2

NO3 + NO2 ——> N2O5

NO3 + NO ——-> 2NO2

3. Formation of nitric acid: The OH radical formed in the smog reacts with NO to form HNO2 and with NO2 to produce HNO3. There may be reaction between NO and NO2 to form HNO2.

NO + OH —-> HNO2

NO2 + OH + M—–> HNO3 + M

NO + NO2 + H2O ——> 2HNO2

HNO2 undergoes photodissociation to produce NO and provide a source of OH radicals.

HNO2 + hv ( NO + OH

4. Formation of hydrogen peroxide: Formaldehyde in polluted air is an important source of atomic hydrogen and hence OH and HO2 radicals:

HCHO + hv ( 2H + CO

H + O2 + M ——> HO2 + M

HO2 + NO —–> NO2 + OH

The OH and HO2 radicals may produce H2O2:

OH + OH + M —–> H2O2 + M

HO2 + HO2 ——–> H2O2 + O2 (R = 3.8 x 10-14)

5. Oxidation of sulfur dioxide: Sulfur dioxide can be oxidized under photochemical conditions but the S-O bond is very strong. So the sulfur dioxide can not undergo photodissociation as in the familiar case of NO2. The oxidation of SO2 involves OH radical:

OH + SO2 ——> HSO3

HSO3 + O2 —–> HSO5 or,

HSO5 ——-> HO2 + SO3 HSO3 + O2 ——> HO2 + SO3

SO3 + H2O —–> H2SO4

There is increasing evidence that the two middle reactions occur as a single reaction.

4. Degradation of larger organic molecules

Larger organic molecules (other than methane and acetaldehyde) are also split up in photochemical smog.

(a) Alkanes: Degradation of large alkane molecules (e.g. butane) starts with attack by OH radical:

OH + CH3CH2CH2CH3 ——-> H2O + CH3CH2CH2CH2

O2 + CH3CH2CH2CH2 ——-> CH3CH2CH2CH2O2


CH3CH2CH2CH2O + O2 ——-> CH3CH2CH2CHO + HO2

CH3CH2CH2CHO + hv ——–> CH3CH2CH2 + HCHO

(b) Alkenes: Large alkane molecules may be degraded by being attacked by ozone, atomic oxygen (O(3P) or OH radical. Attack by OH radical predominates in polluted atmosphere. A typical reaction scheme may be illustrated using butane as example:




The process goes on and on.

The above reaction schemes show degradation of larger organic molecules into smaller ones resulting in greater predominance of low molecular weight compounds in typical urban atmosphere with exhaust fumes of automobile.

5. Heterogeneous reactions in photochemical smog

Gas-phase photochemical reactions may lead to formation of aerosols in polluted urban atmosphere and these give rise to visual obscurity associated with smog condition. High opacity of smog gives an exaggerated impression of the amount of particulate material present yet it is estimated that as little as 5% of pollutants present in photochemical smog could be converted into suspended particulate materials. Various heterogeneous reactions could occur on the surface of these particles or in cloud or rain droplets associated with smog. The material forming condensed phase of smog may consist of both inorganic and organic substances.

(i) Inorganic substances: These include metal oxides and the salts of acids produced within urban air. The acids (particularly sulfuric and nitric acids) are usually present in association with solid particles or more probably as droplets due to their high affinity for water. The latter can react rapidly with atmospheric ammonia. The ammonium sulphate and ammonium nitrate produced are important aerosols that are main causes for the reduction of visibility that accompanies photochemical smog.

(ii) Organic solids: Relatively little is known of the reaction pathways that produce organic particulate materials in the polluted urban air. Nitrogen has been detected in rather unusual reduced oxidation states on particles in photochemical smog. This nitrogen is thought to be present as nitriles, amines or amides bound onto the surface of soot particles. By denoting the soot surface as S, the process may be written as:

S-OH + NH3 —-> S-ONH4

(a phenolic hydroxy ammonium complex)

S-ONH4 —–> S-ONH2 + H2O (at higher temperature)



S-COONH4 —–> S-COONH2 + H2O (at higher temperature)

S-COONH2 ——> S-CN + H2O

Most thoroughly studied heterogeneous reaction in the atmosphere Is the oxidation of sulfur dioxide in atmospheric liquid droplets by the ozone, hydrogen peroxide or oxygen in the presence of a transition metal ion catalyst. This oxidation reaction has been discussed earlier and may proceed much faster in polluted urban atmospheres than in unpolluted atmospheres because the concentrations of oxidants (H2O2 or O3) and metal ion catalysts may be much higher. Metal ions may, in particular, be leached from particulates that are added into the air through anthropogenic activities. Leaching of metals from ash may be particularly significant in their surface concentrations being enriched. High amounts of soluble metal ions have been observed in association with fly ashes from the combustion of refuge derived fuels. A further mechanism for increasing the rate of oxidation involves dissolution of materials such as calcium oxide which are present in high concentrations in coal fly ash making the droplet alkaline:

CaO + H2O —–> Ca2+ + 2OH-

This allows dissolution of larger amounts of sulfur dioxide and thus increases the rate of catalytic oxidation. Alternatively, dissolution of ammonia from a polluted atmosphere will also increase the pH and enhance both the dissolution and oxidation of sulfur dioxide.

Oxidation of sulfur dioxide may also occur via absorption of gas onto solid surfaces followed by subsequent oxidation. However, the surface area of particulate material even in polluted atmosphere is quite small and, therefore, such mechanism requires some method of ‘cleaning’ the surface in order to make oxidation process significant. If particulates are wet, this mechanism may be effective since water would ‘clean’ the surface of particulate material.

In the atmosphere, changes in the size and/or composition of particles also occur. These include leaching of particulate material by water, oxidation or reduction of particles. Zinc vapour from copper smelters condenses to form highly angular and crystalline zinc oxide crystals in the atmosphere. These are gradually degraded, then rounded and now acquire a carbonaceous coating. Slowly zinc oxide core decomposes and particle ends up as a carbonaceous pseudomorph with little or no zinc. Possibly, carbonaceous particles are formed by reduction of zinc oxide following deposition of hydrocarbons onto the surface of the particle.

Global warming

Filed under: Environment,Global warming — gargpk @ 1:15 pm

The atmosphere over the earth contains certain gases that play significant role in maintaining the mean effective planetary temperature. In this respect, the atmosphere acts like the glass walls of a greenhouse. The glass allows short-wave solar radiation to enter the greenhouse but the long-wave and infrared heat-producing re-radiation from inside the greenhouse can not pass through the glass walls. Thus the temperature within the greenhouse becomes higher than outside. The solar radiation entering the atmosphere is predominantly short-wave whereas the terrestrial re-radiation leaving the earth is mainly long-wave or infrared. The composition of atmosphere is such that it allows the short-wave radiation from space to enter but does not allow the heat-producing infrared re-radiation from earth to pass through it. Due to the presence of certain gases, the atmosphere strongly absorbs the infrared radiation resulting in atmospheric heating. The gases that absorb strongly in long-wave and particularly in infrared region are commonly called greenhouse gases. The heating of atmosphere due to presence of these greenhouse gases is commonly called greenhouse effect.
Greenhouse gases
These include those gases present in the atmosphere that have the property of trapping and absorbing strongly the long-wave and infrared terrestrial re-radiation thus causing the atmospheric heating. Important such gases are discussed briefly.
1) Carbon dioxide (CO2): The percentage of this gas by volume in dry air is about 0.035%. The gas is involved in a complex global cycle. It is released from the interior if the earth and is produced by respiration of living organisms, soil processes, combustion of organic matter and oceanic evapouration. On the other hand, it is dissolved in the water bodies on the earth and is also consumed in the photosynthesis of plants.
2) Methane (CH4): In dry air, the proportion of this gas by volume is about 0.0017%. It is produced primarily by anaerobic processes in the natural wetlands, rice paddies, digestive processes of animals, biomass burning and other human activities. It is destroyed in the troposphere by a reaction with hydroxyl (OH) ion.
3) Nitrous oxide (N2O): This gas is produced by biological processes in the oceans as well as soils, by industrial combustion, burning of fossil fuels and by use of chemical fertilizers. It is destroyed by photochemical reactions in the stratosphere involving the production of nitrogen oxides (NOx). The gas has quite long lifetime of about 132 years in the atmosphere.
4) Ozone (O3): The volumewise proportion of this gas in atmosphere is about 0.00006%. It is produced by high level breakup of oxygen molecules by solar ultra-violet radiation and is destroyed by photochemical reactions involving nitrogen oxides and chlorine in the middle and upper stratosphere.
5) Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): These gases are produced solely by human activities i.e. by aerosol propellants, refrigeration coolents, cleansers and air conditioning plants. Chief among these are CFCl2 and CFCl3. These gases released into the atmosphere near ground level quickly move up and reach the stratosphere. Within the stratosphsphere, the gases move towards poles. These gases are decomposed to chlorine by photochemical reactions. The average lifetime of these gases in atmosphere is 55-116 years.
6) Water vapour: Though water vapour is not a gas in the strict chemical sense, it is an important atmospheric constituent. Its average proportion in the air by volume is about 1.0%. The amount of water vapour in the atmosphere is highly variable depending upon the place ant time.
The atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are quite low. Therefore, the relative effects of these gases increase approximately linearly with increasing concentrations except in case of CO2 where the effect is related to the logarithm of the concentration. The ozone in stratosphere absorbs significant amounts of both incoming ultra-violet solar radiation and outgoing long-wave terrestrial re-radiation. Thus, overall thermal role of ozone is quite complex. Its net effect on surface temperature of earth depends on the altitude at which the absorption occurs. The net effect, to some extent, is a balance between shortwave and long-wave absorption. An increase of ozone above 30 km altitude absorbs relatively more incoming short-wave radiation, causing a net decrease in surface temperature. However, ozone increase below 25 km results in relatively more absorption of outgoing long-wave radiation causing a net decrease in surface temperature.
Global warming
The mean ‘effective’ planetary temperature of earth is 255oK corresponding to the emitted infrared radiation. On the global scale, annual average emission of long-wave radiation from the surface of earth is about 390 W per square meter. At the top of atmosphere, the long-wave radiation emitted to the outer space from the earth-atmosphere system is about 237 W per square meter. The balance of about 153 W per square meter long-wave radiation is trapped by the clouds and greenhouse gases present naturally in the atmosphere. This trapped long-wave radiation is re-radiated back towards lower troposphere and earth and is crucial for maintenance of the global mean temperature. The warming contribution of natural concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases to the mean planetary temperature is approximately 33oK. Water vapour accounts for 21oK, carbon dioxide for 7oK and ozone for 2oK. Nitrous oxide and methane together contribute about 3oK. If long-wave radiation flux of earth changes by as little as 1 W per square meter, it may cause important changes in the planetary temperature and as a result, in the climate system of the earth.
It has been observed that since the dawn of industrial age, the atmospheric concentrations of various greenhouse gases have been increasing at increasing rate. This is causing increased trapping of long-wave radiation in the atmosphere resulting in increased planetary temperature. The increase in global mean temperature as a consequence of increase in concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases is commonly called greenhouse problem or global warming.
The capacity of atmospheric gases to absorb the long-wave re-radiation from the surface of earth depends on the following factors:
1) Concentration of the gas: The absorption of long-wave radiation by a gas occurs in specific absorption lines. Each absorption line is surrounded by extended wings and a series of lines creates an absorption band. The gas molecules collect radiation by their vibrational energy transitions creating lines and bands through rotational splitting. Absorption by major greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and ozone soon reaches saturation in the main absorption bands. However, with the increase in the concentration, the capacity of various gases to absorb more long-wave radiation increases in the band wings. If the absorption in a band is weak (i.e. unsaturated), significant capture of radiation occurs only along the specific absorption lines. Such absorption increases linearly with concentration of the gas. If absorption in a band is strong (i.e. saturated), extra absorption of long-wave radiation occurs mainly in the wings. With increase in concentration of the gas the wings may even overlap with other bands. In such cases, absorption of long-wave radiation increases logarithmically at a much slower rate with increase in the concentration of gas.
2) Wavelength of the radiation: Carbon dioxide and water vapour are most important in relation to atmospheric absorption of terrestrial re-radiation. These tow gases absorb about 90% of the total long-wave radiation absorbed by the atmosphere. Particularly in the bands around 8 mm and above 15 mm, water vapour is more active and other gases have little influence on the absorption of long-wave radiation. Absorption in the band range from 8.5 mm to 11.5 mm is dominated by methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and CFCs and is unsaturated. This band range is commonly called atmospheric window. In natural conditions, concentrations of these gases are very low and long-wave radiation in the earth-atmosphere system can escape to outer space through the atmospheric window. With increasing concentrations of these relatively active gases, such radiation is increasingly held back and absorbed in the lower troposphere. Such absorption results in increased re-radiation of long-wave radiation from troposphere towards earth’s surface resulting in the rise in temperature near the ground. This surface warming causes increase in evapouration from the water bodies leading to further increase in water vapour in the atmosphere and more absorption of radiation around 8 mm and above 15 mm.
3) Altitude of the gas above the surface: About 20% of the total long-wave radiation from the earth’s surface is absorbed in the lowest 80 km of the atmosphere and 99% is absorbed in the first 4 km from the earth’s surface. The earth is not in pure radiation equilibrium. Heat in the troposphere is transferred through sensible and latent heat fluxes and by convection mixing. The earth-atmosphere thermal equilibrium is at present maintained at effective radiating temperature of –18oC in the atmosphere. This equilibrium is maintained at the altitude of 5-6 km. In the colder upper troposphere, resultant release of long-wave radiation must decrease with altitude. If there is net increase in the trapped radiation in the troposphere, more energy would become available to drive the climatic circulation and the present equilibrium would be changed. Thus with increase in concentrations of greenhouse gases would result in rise in the altitude of the radiation equilibrium balance, temperature of earth’s surface and temperature of the troposphere until a new balance is reached between planetary emission and the absorbed energy. The altitude also influences the greenhouse warming due to absorption of solar energy. The greenhouse gases are largely transparent to short-wave radiation. Only water vapour and ozone have some short-wavelength absorption bands. Absorption of short-wavelength radiation by the gases in the lower troposphere will add to the warming while absorption in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere will have a cooling effect.
Potential impacts in the stratosphere may be opposite to the troposphere and net cooling may be expected. due to:
1) Less absorption of solar radiation by the lower levels of ozone,
2) Increase in the emission of long-wave radiation in both upward and downward directions from increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the stratosphere.
Loss of stratospheric ozone will allow more short-wave radiation to troposphere. However,, a cooler stratosphere emits less long-wave radiation to troposphere depending on the altitude of ozone layer. The two countering effects are comparable in magnitude. Model calculations suggest that cooling in upper stratosphere at 40-50 km altitude may be upto 6oK.
On the global average, the impact of atmospheric carbon dioxide on the long-wave absorption and global temperature is likely to be as much as that of all the other major greenhouse gases combined together. Estimates suggest that by the mid 21st century, earth’s temperature will increase by 2-4oK from the present level. This rise in temperature will be created by perhaps 4 W per square meter net radiation heating in the atmosphere. However, it may be emphasized that the greenhouse theory works only when atmosphere is cooler than the earth’s surface and the interactions between the cryosphere, biosphere, ocean and land are on a scale smaller than global. Therefore, the greenhouse effect i.e. global warming effects will not be globally uniform and will show spatial variations.
Trends in greenhouse gases
More than 35 gases covering a wide range of chemical groups could contribute to global warming. Five of these gases seem to be particularly important and these have shown a steady rise in their concentrations over the period of their recorded measurements at global background stations of the World Meteorological Organization. The comparison of trends in two hemispheres shows that there are major seasonal differences in the two hemispheres. This fact emphasizes the importance of vegetation in Northern Hemisphere in relation to carbon dioxide and methane. The concentrations of all the major greenhouse gases are higher in the Northern Hemisphere except the N2O that has an important oceanic source. Ozone in troposphere shows high spatial variability across the globe. Trends of major greenhouse gases have been summarized below.
1) Carbon dioxide: Since industrial revolution in mid 1800s, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is gradually increasing due to increasing use of fossil fuels for the energy needs of human activities. Analysis of air bubbles trapped in the ice cores from Green land and Antarctica has revealed a pre-industrial CO2 concentration of about 279-280 ppm. However, presently about 82% of human energy needs are met by fossil fuels on a global scale. This is divided mainly among oil (41%), gas (17%) and coal (24%). As a result, recorded CO2 concentrations since 1957 has been increasing at the rate of 1.8% per year with concentrations having exceeded by 325 ppmv by 1975. This upward global trend has resulted in increase of CO2 concentration to 350 ppmv which is still rising. Presently the global emission of CO2 due to human activities is estimated to be about 5.1 Gt per year that is about 150 times more than the global emission of SO2.
About 90% of the global anthropogenic CO2 emission occurs in Northern Hemisphere though there are marked spatial and seasonal variations. Maximum emission occurs in middle latitudes in Northern Hemisphere where most of the sources exist. The concentrations show peak in late April or early May associated with season of maximum growth of plants in the middle to high latitudes in Northern Hemisphere. Minimum concentrations occur at the end of summer. The maximum and minimum values in the latitudinal band of 60-70o N show a difference of about 15.0 ppm, which diminishes to about 1.0 ppm near equator. Differences in maximum and minimum seasonal concentrations in Southern Hemisphere are very small owing to lack of land vegetation in that area. However, due to good atmospheric mixing and effective atmospheric exchange between hemispheres over a time period of about a year, CO2 concentrations differ by only 1.5-2.0 ppmv between the two hemispheres. Further, the addition CO2 to the atmosphere due to deforestation is about 2 Gt per year. However, the impact of changes in the biosphere on atmospheric CO2 is quite complex.
2) Methane: Present concentration of methane in the atmosphere is about 1650 ppbv and the rate of increase has been of the order of 1-2% per year. January measurements at South Pole show an increase of 17.5+1.3 ppbv per year. Analysis of the trends over past 300 years shows an exponential increase in human population across the globe and the rise in agricultural production (SCOPE, 1986).
Increase in methane is caused due to decline in OH concentrations as well as human activities. Research indicates that OH concentrations presently are about 20% lower than several centuries ago. However, this decline in OH has contributed only about 30% to methane increase. The seasonal variations, out of phase between hemispheres are mainly due to seasonal changes in the sources of methane listed above.
3) Nitrous oxide: Measurements of ice cores indicates a pre-industrial N2O concentration of about 281-191 ppbv which are about 8% lower than the present concentrations. N2O has increased by about 0.2% per year from 8-9 to 14 Tg per year (SCOPE, 1986) between 1977 and 1987. Measurements in January at the south pole show an increase of 1.04+0.14 ppbv from 1975-1985.
4) Tropospheric ozone: Evidence about ozone as a greenhouse gas is somewhat inconclusive but there is indication that absorption in the 9.6 mm wavelength band is increasing because of the increase on its concentration. In the northern hemisphere, tropospheric ozone is estimated to have increased by 0.8-1.5% per year since 1967 but in the southern hemisphere, there does not seem to be such an increasing trend.. The impact of ozone in global warming depends on whether tropospheric or stratospheric ozone is being altered and by what amount. By measurements of vertical distributions, it has been established that increasing trends in tropospheric ozone occur mainly in 2-8 km altitude levels.
5) Chloroflurocarbons: Concentrations of CFCs have doubled in the past 10 years. January measurements at south pole have shown an yearly increase of 10.6+ 0.8 pptv for CFC-11 and 18.5+0.9 pptv for CFC-12 between 1975 and 1985. Concentration of CFC-11 is about 250 pptv and of CFC-12 is about 400 pptv. Though these concentrations are quite small compared to CO2, their relative Impacts on long-wave radiation absorption are quite high because CFCs absorb in the 8.5-11.5 mm atmospheric window and their wavelengths of absorption are unsaturated.
Future projections of greenhouse gases
With increasing awareness of the potential dangers of increasing atmospheric pollutant gases, particularly greenhouse gases, there have been global efforts to reduce the atmospheric loading of these gases by a variety of preventive measures. However, given that the present industrial and agricultural situation around the world is most likely to continue and expand, it seems unlikely that the increase of CH4, N2O and O3 shall be limited in the near future though there may be some reduction in the increase of CO2 and CFCs.
Concentrations of CO2 by the end of 21st century shall depend on the developments in fossil-fuel combustion technologies that may minimize CO2 emission, possible developments in the fields of alternative sources of energy and renewable fuel sources. There have been various speculative estimates of CO2 emission by the end of year 2100 and these range from a high figure of 20 Gt per year to a low estimate of 2 Gt per year.
Though decreasing trend of greenhouse gases is desirable, it seems that this shall not be feasible and much will depend on the location and the rate of global population growth in the next 50 years, a wide range of social, economical and political factors. Various workers have speculated that increasing trends in all the major greenhouse gases will continue well into the 21st century resulting in increasing global warming and related global impacts.
Evidences of greenhouse warming
The evidence that global temperature is rising due to greenhouse gases has its base in the temperature curves calculated by Jones et al. (1986) and Jones (1988). Various other analyses have also verified the overall trends with minor differences in details. Temperature plots show a rise in global temperature since 1800s. There has been global warming between 0.3 to 0.7oC on a global scale since 1800s with some differences between northern and southern hemispheres and also between land and ocean locations. The land temperatures are calculated for 5o latitude x 10o longitude grids based on the temperature measurements from reliable land and fixed-position weather ships. The data are considered reliable back to 1890 in the Southern Hemisphere and 1875 in the Northern Hemisphere with acceptable trends back to 1860s.
The temperature plots show some important temporal variation between the two hemispheres. Most of the overall warming trends have been observed in the polar regions of northern hemisphere but all other latitudinal zones show a similar significant warming trend except the 44.64oS. Temperature trends in Antarctica show no relationship to those for the rest of the world. This suggests that climatic regime of this zone is independent and not coupled with rest of the global circulation.
In the Northern Hemisphere, a cooling of 0.3oC has been observed between 1940 and 1970. Such cooling trend is much less apparent in Southern Hemisphere. In view of the greenhouse theory, no satisfactory explanation for this decrease in temperature has been given till date. However, temperature has increased by 0.3oC in Northern Hemisphere and by 0.23oC in Southern Hemisphere between 1967 and 1987. Much of this warming has been recorded in the mid-latitudinal regions rather than in Polar regions. These observations emphasize that much of the warming trend has occurred abruptly in 10-15 years in the Northern Hemisphere while in Southern Hemisphere, the warming has been more consistent throughout the recorded period. The block of warmest years in both hemispheres during 1980s has been put forward as clear evidence for greenhouse-gas induced global warming by many atmospheric scientists.
The trends of warming seen at the surface have also been observed throughout the troposphere. Data between 1960 and 1985 from 63 stations of upper air network has shown general warming throughout the troposphere but cooling across the tropopause and stratosphere. With greater changes occurring in the Southern Hemisphere. In contrast to greenhouse theory, tropospheric warming has been more in the tropics as compared to Polar regions. In the stratosphere, cooling of 3.0 to 5.0oC in the 26-55 km altitude layer followed by minimal cooling thereafter was measured between 1970 and 1976. This has not been fully explained by greenhouse theory.
Despite evidence of increasing trend in global temperature in the past few decades, there is disagreement amongst atmospheric scientists regarding impacts of human influences on the global warming. The trends of temperature and CO2 show very poor correlation; impact of oceanic thermal inertia is poorly understood and there are major gaps in the understanding of relative influence of carbon dioxide versus water vapour absorption and the influence of aerosol scattering and absorption. There are questions whether water vapour concentrations will increase the long-wave radiation absorption as the greenhouse warming theory suggests and if so, to what extent water vapour concentration will increase as a result of global temperature rise.
However, it should be pointed out that most of the critics of the greenhouse theory used surface energy balance approach and did not consider the impacts on the earth-atmosphere system as a whole or they tried to apply an empirical non-equilibrium situation. The impacts of urban warming effect on the overall temperature is still being debated hotly. Jones et al. (1989) found that urban warming influences, at the most, may account for 0.1oC of the global warming trend since 1860. Therefore, they concluded that urban temperature effects are unlikely to account for significant proportion of the hemispherical temperature trend. Jones (1988) has also pointed out that potential regional variations and the possibility of the differences in hemispheric factors should not be ignored as is usually done in incorporating all temperature data into a global set. Regions where distinct cooling has occurred over the 1967-1986 period include most of the northern and central Europe, northeast Canada, parts of central U.S.A., Japan, central south America and Antarctica. In most other areas across the globe, there has been distinct rise in temperature.
Models of greenhouse impacts
The impacts of rising trends in green house gases in the near future are mainly estimated by two methods:
1) Computer models: These are simulation models of the earth’s atmosphere that in some way link with the earth’s surface.
2) Palaeoclimatic proxy models: These models show climatic conditions during warmer periods in the past.
Both methods attempt to ‘predict’ the future climatic changes due to greenhouse gases. Though both methods have major limitations, they give somewhat similar general indications about the climate in the near future.
Estimates from the computer models
The three-dimensional (3-D) general circulation models (GCM models) are most appropriate for establishing the broad spatial variations of potential warming effects due to rising trends of greenhouse gases. The GCM models incorporate many of the features of 1-D and 2-D models and present an overall picture on a global or hemispherical basis. The models focus on modeling temperature variations assuming mostly a doubling of CO2 which is considered to be similar to a combination of all greenhouse gases working together. Attempts have also been made through these models to estimate the impacts on soil moisture, sea ice distribution, albedo and cloud cover. However, the success of such attempts has been quite limited. All such models differ in the estimates of the magnitudes of the impact and the detailed location of major changes. In general, the GCM models suggest following global impacts:
1) Average global warming of 3.5 to 4.2oC.
2) Increase in global precipitation by 7-11% by mid 21st century.
3) Warming throughout the troposhpere and across tropopause, particularly in the tropics and mid-latitudes.
4) Significant cooling in the stratosphere. At altitude above 25 km over the poles, temperature may decrease by more than 6oC during December to February.
5) Stratospheric cooling becoming most apparent over equatorial regions between June and August.
6) Stratospheric cooling increasing with the altitude at all latitudes in all the seasons.
In both the hemispheres, the warming near the earth’s surface is strongest in higher latitudes during winters. Maximum near surface warming during summers occurs over central Australia (over 8oC) in Southern Hemisphere and over eastern North America (by about 6oC) in Northern Hemisphere. Predictions of models differ about Antarctica as to whether warming is greatest in the interior or in coastal regions. During winters, greatest warming occurs in North Atlantic, North Pacific and Antarctic ocean reagions. The warming effects are stronger in Northern Hemisphere as compared to Southern Hemisphere.
The models also suggest that global atmospheric warming due to increase in greenhouse gases would create a more active hydrological cycle resulting in enhanced global evapouration, cloudiness and precipitation. Very rough estimates show that largest precipitation changes should occur in the tropics and a wide pariety of changes should occur outside the tropics. The models show much variation in the estimates of precipitation changes. The models show even greater variation in the estimates of the changes in cloudiness, soil moisture and albedo. This indicates that models are too coarse in areal details and are not sensitive enough to evaluate the impact of greenhouse-gas warming on these features.
Palaeoclimatic proxies
This method estimates the possible warming impacts by use of the palaeoclimatic data of past periods that are similar in temperatures to the expected effects. In this method, all the influences of greenhouse gases are lumped together and no attempt is made to give explanation for the warming in terms of theory. Three main methods are used to evaluate the impacts of greenhouse gases from the proxy palaeoclimatic data:
1) Meteorological records of about past century are used to define the groups of warm and cold years. The groups of years represent more correctly the slower warming changes expected to occur due to increasing trends of greenhouse gases. These groups of past warm and cold years are compared and contrasted with each other. The method is often used for analyses of changes over large regions such as Europe or North America. However, the method is based on temperature changes smaller than expected for warming due to greenhouse gases and does not include the oceanic or cryospheric influences.
2) The palaeoclimate of a region for a period such as altithermal or climatic optimum (6,000-9,000 BP) that is supposed to have had temperature similar to that expected from warming due to increase in greenhouse gases is reconstructed from a wide variety of proxy data. It is assumed that the response of atmosphere shall be same irrespective of the cause. Though the knowledge of the past climates is incomplete, some general results can be obtained from such analyses.
3) Atmospheric dynamics in combination with empirical climatic relationships is used to make reasonable estimates of possible climatic changes that may result from warming due to increasing trends of greenhouse gases. This method is least developed amongst the three methods.
Use of palaeoclimate proxies has several advantages, particularly the following:
1) Quantification of natural background variability in a situation where levels of the greenhouse gases were not high is possible with these methods.
2) It is possible to obtain insight into the ways in which climate responds to external forces in a real sense because the proxy is based on real data and is not a model.
3) The use of proxy allows comparison testing between present and possible future situations that is again based on the real data.
4) There is some evidence of direct link between CO2 concentrations and degree of atmospheric warming over quite long geological times in the distant past.
However, use of the past proxy climates to estimate the impact of greenhouse gases on global warming has been criticized for two main reasons:
1) The separation of warming signal due to greenhouse gases from the background climate variability or ‘noise’ is very difficult since such separation requires accurate data and sound methods and both of these are not firmly established.
2) The warming impacts due to greenhouse gases may be different in all sorts of ways from the warming that is caused by natural climatic variability.
Some of the results of proxy analyses are broadly similar to those from GCM models but there are regional differences also.
In very general terms, proxy analyses suggest that:
1) Conditions shall become drier in most of Europe, North America except Alaska and extreme Northern Europe.
2) Conditions shall become wetter in most of Europe, north and east Africa and perhaps India, China and western half of Australia.
3) Polar regions shall experience more warming than the tropics.
4) Circulation zones shall shift towards poles.
Potential implications of greenhouse-gas warming
The GCM models and proxy methods have attempted to visualize and estimate the possible changes in various climatic parameters and their impacts on the biosphere. Though there are still controversies surrounding greenhouse-theory and regarding the results of GCM models and proxy methods, atmospheric scientists are confident enough to establish scenarios of the general changes that might from warming due to increasing trends of greenhouse gases. In general, following potential impacts on global environment, sea level, biosphere and ecosystems are visualized as a result of such global warming.
Global environmental changes: Some of the major visualized impacts of global greenhouse-gas warming on the global environment are:
1) Changes in the global thermal regimes and the energy balance of the earth-atmosphere system.
2) Change in the movements of air masses and consequent change in the distribution of monsoons.
3) Increase in temperature towards higher latitudes leading to gradual spread of warmer sub-tropical climatic conditions towards poles.
4) Increase in temperature at equator turning presently sub-tropical and tropical zones into deserts.
5) Melting of polar ice caps and other ice masses, rise in snowlines on mountains resulting in increase in the mean global sea levels and changes in the salinity of seas.
Sea level changes: All the estimates of sea level changes over the past century suggest that global sea level has risen between 12 and 15 cm during this century with a more rapid rate 22 cm per century since 1930. A correlation between sea level changes and hemispherical temperature trends shows a coefficient of 0.6 when annual mean data is used. In general, best correlations are obtained when both data sets show increases. From the correlation between air temperature and sea level change, it has been postulated that the sea level shall rise by 20-140 cm by 2030 A.D.
Sea levels may rise due to various reasons. Following reasons have been suggested to particularly important.
1) Thermal expansion of the sea water.
2) Melting of small glaciers.
3) Melting of Greenland and polar ice sheets.
4) Changes in runoff due to changes in precipitation.
5) Changes in evapouration due to warmer atmosphere.
Thermal expansion due to changes temperature and salinity is likely to be limited upto a depth of 1000 m from the surface on a short time scale. The top 100 m of sea water might expand by 10 cm sea level equivalent and the next 900 m by 20 cm sea level equivalent by mid 21st century (SCOPE, 1986).
If major melting of Antarctica ice sheet does not occur, impact of ice melting on the sea level rise would be small. Analyses have suggested that the chance of the melting of Antarctica ice sheet is as much as the chance of its expanding due to changes in precipitation associated with changes in atmospheric circulation.
There is no threat of extensive melting og the ice sheets of Antarctica or ice caps of Greenland and Arctic region. However, more extensive knowledge of the polar oceanography and the relationship between ice cap changes and the estimated future atmospheric warming is required for definite estimates of the melting of polar ice due to global greenhouse warming and its impact on the rise of global sea levels.
Sea levels might be influenced more by regional or local changes on the e.g. subsidence and local elevations, atmospheric pressure, wind stress and ocean circulation. Sea levels have large spatial and temporal variability on a smaller regional scale suggesting that many areas might not follow the global trend. Small rise in sea level may be linked to increased frequency of storms caused by warming due to increase in greenhouse gases.
Some of the major impacts of rise in sea levels may be as follows.
1) Coastal land with an elevation of one meter or less alongwith parts of many coastal cities worldwide would be submerged. The parts of coast presently reclaimed from the ocean such as large areas of Netherlands would be flooded.
2) Rise in sea levels would increase the coastal erosion, remove the sand from present beaches and create changes in the structure and shape of the coastline.
3) There would be more frequent incursions of salt-water into the coastal wetlands changing their salinity.
4) Supply of fresh groundwater presently used for agriculture and human consumption might become saline and unfit for use.
Changes in biosphere and ecosystems: General visualized consequences of global warming due to greenhouse gases are as following:
1) Spread of sub-tropical and tropical vegetation towards higher latitudes and development of desert vegetation in the presently sub-tropical and tropical zones.
2) Change of the species composition of vegetation due to increase in the percentage of megatherms in all regions of the earth.
3) Decrease in total evotranspiration from the vegetation covered areas of the earth due to higher stomatal resistance at higher CO2 concentrations.
4) Ultimate destruction of phytoplankton in all regions of earth due to decreasing concentration of carbon dioxide dissolved in water with increasing temperature.
5) Changes in the distribution of distribution of animal populations worldwide in response to changed climatic and vegetational conditions.
6) A variety of different stresses being imposed on the ecosystems such as pests, droughts and floods due to changed climatic conditions.
7) Extinction of many plant and animal species because changed environmental conditions will be beyond their tolerance range.
8) Evolution of many new plant and animal species due to increased chances of mutations.
9) Increased productivity of ecosystem due to increased photosynthesis during initial phases of greenhouse warming. Potential impacts of global warming due to greenhouse gases have mainly been analyzed for agricultural and forest ecosystems. Extensive work has been done to evaluate the direct impact of increased CO2 concentration on plant growth. However, data is mostly from controlled laboratory type conditions and its projection on the real environmental change is highly speculative. There are basic, mutually interactive ways in which global warming due to greenhouse gases might affect the ecosystems.
a) Photosynthesis would be stimulated due to warmer temperature and higher CO2 concentration. This would increase the plant growth and development at all levels i.e. productivity of ecosystems would increase. However, estimation of the magnitude of this benefit is difficult because different species have widely varying responses to such conditions. Induced partial stomatal closure in increased carbon dioxide concentration would reduce transpiration and thus result in better water conservation in plants. It is estimated that the increase in growth and yield would be about 10-50% in C3 species and about 1-10% in C4 species.
b) Any benefits from higher CO2 concentrations may be nullified or enhanced due to changing climatic patterns associated with possible global warming. Changes in the temperature and precipitation in different areas of the earth would result in changes in the distributions of species and ecosystems. The degree of response to changed climatic conditions would vary between species resulting in changes in their densities. This would bring about major changes in the species diversity and species composition of all the ecosystems. Warmer temperatures would decrease the yield of major mid-latitude crops such as wheat and maize in Northern Hemisphere by 3-17% depending on the temperature change. Changes in the precipitation in different areas may increase or decrease this loss in yield. Increasing temperatures and precipitation alongwith increasing CO2 concentrations may create a shift in feasible agricultural areas by several hundred kilometers per degree increase across a present-day climatic boundary.

February 22, 2008

Air pollution and plants

Filed under: Air pollution,plants — gargpk @ 2:24 pm


Major primary air pollutants gases are sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen particularly NO2, HF, HCl, chlorine, ammonia, ethylene and other organic substances. Particulate air pollutants are soot, dust, fine particles of cement and various other substances. Various fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides used in aerial spray are also important air pollutants. The common sources of the pollutants, factors affecting the effect of pollutant and the injury symptoms produced in plants are discussed below.
Major gaseous pollutants
The gaseous pollutants are emitted in large amounts into the atmosphere due to a variety of anthropogenic activities and form most important atmospheric pollutants that injuriously affect the plants. Important such pollutants are discussed below.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
It is the most important and common air pollutant produced in huge amounts in combustion of coal and other fuels in industrial and domestic use. It is also produced during smelting of sulphide ores.
SO2 effects increase in high hymidity, windy conditions, in the early morning , in the deficiency of K and Cl2 and excess of sulphur in the soil. It interacts with ozone, NO2 and HF. The nature of interaction depends on the relative proportion of gases. The impact of SO2 decreases in low soil moisture, low temperature, deficiency of nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus and sometimes in excess of nitrogen also.

In angiosperms, young leaves and in conifers, needles are most sensitive to SO2 pollution. In general, seedlings are more sensitive than older plants. The effect of the gas usually decreases with age of the plant and lesser morphological and physiological symptoms appear in older plants.

Injury symptoms: The gas is a strong reducing agent. In low comcentration, it is oxidized and used in protein synthesis of the plant. However, in high concentration, it causes swelling of thylakoids and interferes with electron transport chain. In SO2 pollution, plants show initial reduction of photosynthesis and increased respiration. The gas reduces stomatal opening and thus causes general water stress in plants. SO2 replaces oxygen in cellular materials and changes their nature. It affects structural proteins in the cell membrane and thus changes the membrane permeability. High concentration of the gas causes accumulation of sulphydril and decrease of sulphides in plants. SO2 interferes with amino acid metabolism and reduces the synthesis of proteins and enzymes. It stimulates the oxidation of PGA and increases the pentose phosphate cycle activity. It reduces the level of keto acids, ATP, sucrose and glutamate in plants and increases the level of glucose, fructose and glycolate. It inactivates many enzymes either by breaking their S-S bonds or by changing their stereo structure. In lichens , the gas induces photooxidation in the phycobiont part.

Most common visible symptom of SO2 injury is water-soaked appearance of leaves which later become necrotic changing into brown spots. Colour and shape of necrotic spots is characteristic in different species and NO2 concentrations. In some species, characteristic intraveinal chlorosis is caused. In general, SO2 pollution results in abscission of older leaves and tip necrosis in flower and sepals.

Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)

Major sources of this gas are nitrate fertilizer factories. The NO gas produced during combustion of fossil fuels and other oxides of nitrogen viz. N2O3, N2O4 and N2O5 are all converted gradually to NO2 in the atmosphere.

The impact of the gas on plants increases with humidity, low light intensity and deficiency of nitrogen and iron in the soil. The effect of gas decreases in the conditions of drought. Sensitivity of plants to this gas changes by a factor of six during day and night. NO2 interacts with SO2, O3 and HF and the nature of interaction varies with relative proportion of gases.

NO2 mostly affects the leaves and seedlings. Its effects decrease with increasing age of the plant and tissue. Conifers are found to be more sensitive to this gas during spring and summer than in winters. Older needles are more sensitive to the gas than young ones.

Injury symptoms: The gas causes formation of crystalloid structures in the stroma of chloroplasts and swelling of thylakoid membrane. As a result the photosynthetic activity of the plant is reduced.

Most common visible injury symptoms are chlorosis in angiospermic leaves and tip burn in conifer needles. In angiosperms, most of the species produce water-soaked intraveinal areas that later become necrotic. Tip burn is common symptom in bracts, sepals and awns.


Many particulate and gaseous fluorides are produced when ores containing fluorine are processed and used in industries. Common gaseous fluoride pollutants are HF, SiF6, CF4 and F2. Particulate fluoride pollutants include Ca3AlF6 (Cryolite), CaF2, NH3F, AlF6, CaSiF, NaF and Na2SiF6. Aerosols are often formed from NaF, NaAlF6 and AlF6. Chief sources of fluoride pollutants are brickworks, aluminium factories, glassworks, steelworks, ceramic factories, phosphate fertilizer plants and uranium smelters. Some fluorine pollution also occurs during combustion of coal. Most injurious fluoride pollutant is gaseous hydrogen fluoride (HF).

Fluorides in general, are accumulated in the plant tissues over long times. They are first accumulated in the leaves and then are translocated towards tips and margins of the leaves. The injury symptoms are produced only after a critical level of fluoride is attained. Due to such accumulation over long times, flurides generally and HF particularly can induce injury at very low atmospheric concentrations. Critical concentration for fluoride injury is 0.1 ppm for several days. Toxicity of particulate fluorides depends upon the particle size, their solubility and humidity of the atmosphere.

HF gas is much lighter than air and so can cause damage in plants even at a distance of 30 km from the source. It is a hygroscopic gas and forms acidic cloud near the source. Generally the impact of HF pollution increases with humidity and excess of P in soil while decreases in low temperature, drought and deficiency of N and Ca in the soil. In some species, impact of HF has been reported to decrease with excess of N and Ca in the soil.

In most of the species, recovery from moderate fluoride injury can occur within few days if exposure to pollutant stops. However, some highly sensitive species e.g. pine and spruce can never recover fully. HF generally affects immature leaves in angiosperms and needles in conifers.

Injury symptoms: Fluorides combine with metal components of proteins or inhibit them otherwise and thus interfere with the activity of many enzymes. As a result the cell wall composition, photosynthesis, respiration, carbohydrate synthesis, synthesis of nucleic acids and nucleotides and energy balance of the cell are affected. In the leaves subjected to HF exposure, endoplasmic reticulum is reduced, ribosomes are detached from ER, number of ribosomes is reduced and mitochondria become swollen. Chlorophyll synthesis and cellulose synthesis are inhibited. Activities of UDP-glucose-fructose transglucosylase, phosphoglucomutase, enolase and polyphenol oxidase are reduced. On the other hand activities of catalase, peroxidase, pyruvate kinase, PEP-carboxylase, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, cytochrome oxidase and pentose phosphate pathway are stimulated.

In conifer needles common visible injury symptoms are chlorosis later turning into red/brown discolouration, tip burn later turning into necrosis of whole needle, formation of sharply defined red/purple bands between healthy and injured tissue. Similar symptoms are common in angiospermic leaves also. In addition, the angiospermic leaves in many species also show zonation of necrotic areas, leaf cupping, curling of leaf edges and ragged leaf margins. In sepals, petals, bracts and awns, water-soaked margins and later tip and marginal necrosis are observed.

Chlorine (Cl2)

Many industrial activities are the sources of chlorine pollution. Although chlorine concentrations change very rapidly in the atmosphere due to atmospheric chemistry and light rain can remove all the chlorine from the air in a very short time, chlorine injury can occur to plants near the source of pollution.

The impact of chlorine pollution increases in bright sunlight and decreases in drought and low temperature. Older plants are more sensitive to chlorine than seedlings. The age of tissue has little effect on the sensitivity and older as well as young tissues are almost equally afected by chlorine pollution.

Injury symptoms: Chlorine injury symptoms can appear from 18 hours to 8 days after exposure. In most plant species, recovery from chlorine injury can occur 3 to 4 days after exposure is stopped. Chlorine injury symptoms are quite variable in different species. Most common visible symptoms in conifers are chlorosis, tip burn and necrosis is needles. In angiosperm leaves, marginal or intraveinal necrosis, water-soaked appearance, leaf cupping and abscission are common.

Hydrogen chloride (HCl)

HCl gas is released in large quantities in combustion of PVC and all chlorinated hydrocarbon material in large fires or incinerators. The HCl gas is very hygroscopic and quickly changes to hydrochloric acid by reacting with atmospheric moisture and forms aerosol droplets.

The HCl injury can be caused to plants even at a distance of 800 meter from the source. Like fluorides, the chloride from HCl is accumulated in the leaves and translocated towards their margins and tips. Symptoms of HCl injury appear after a critical concentration is reached, usually between 24 and 72 hours after the exposure.

Impact of HCl pollution decreases with increase in humidity, deficiency of Mg and excess of Ca. Mature plants are more sensitive to HCl than seedlings. Similarly, young fully expanded leaves are more sensitive than immature unexpanded leaves.

Injury symptoms: Most common visible injury symptoms in conifer needles are red or brown discolouration and tip burn. In angiosperm leaves, common symptoms are intraveinal water-soaked streaks, yellow or brown necrosis, tip necrosis, bleached areas around the necrosis and shot-holing. Tip burn, necrotic stipple and discolouration in sepals and petals are also observed.

Ammonia (NH3)

Continuous releases of ammonia from the sources are rarely high enough to cause acute injury but occasional high release or spillage may cause ammonia pollution. High concentrations of ammonia are sometimes found around intensive farm units e.g. chicken batteries. Extent of injury reduces rapidly with increase in distance form the source. Under certain conditions the ammonia may remain as a cloud above ground level causing more injury to trees than to the ground flora. Injury symptoms may take upto 9 days to develop. In most plant species, recovery may occur in about 2 weeks after exposure is stopped.

Impact of ammonia on plants generally increases with humidity and decreases with drought. Effect of darkness on ammonia sensitivity is highly variable among species. Some species are more sensitive to low concentrations of ammonia than to its high concentration. Age of tissue has little effect on sensitivity and both young and old tissues are equally sensitive to ammonia.

Injury symptoms: Most common visible symptoms in conifers are black discolouration, usually sharply bordered tip burn and abscission of needles. In angiosperm leaves, common symptoms are water-soaked appearance later turning black, intercostal necrosis, slight marginal and upper surface injury, glazong/bronzing of upper surface, desiccation and abscission.

Organic gases (Ethylene)

Among organic gaseous pollutants, ethylene is most common. Other organic gases are propylene, butylene and acetylene. Ethylene is continuously emitted from many sources involving combustion or processing of petroleum or its products or burning of organic materials e.g. straw burning. Other organic gases are also produced in various chemical industrial processes.

Ethylene is a natural plant growth substance so the injury effects produced by it on plants are very similar to growth abnormality symptoms. Other organic gases also produce symptoms similar to those of ethylene pollution. However, the sensitivities of species to different gases are variable.

Ethylene injury symptoms develop in plants only in exposure to high concentrations and take several days to develop. After exposure to the gas is stopped, level of recovery is variable in different species. Generally, younger plant parts recover but older parts do not. Much ‘acute’ damage to plants is caused on the fringes of polluted area or by a steady leakage of gas in low concentration.

Impact of ethylene on the plants increases with high temperature. The gas interacts with SO2 and CO2 in atmosphere and the interaction is antagonistic i.e. high levels of these latter gases inhibit the development of ethylene injury.

Injury symptoms: In injuriously high concentrations of ethylene, growth of plants is stopped. In low concentrations, growth abnormalities appear. In conifers, yellow tips in needles and abscission of branches and cones is common. In angiosperms, common symptoms are epinasty or hyponasty, loss of bark, abscission of leaves and flowers, premature flower opening and fruit ripening.

Minor gaseous pollutants
Many other air polllutants which are highly injurious to animals and human beings also cause damage to plants. However, plants are affected by these gases at quite higher concentrations than the animals.Common such gaseous pollutants are CO, H2S, Br2, I2 and Hg-vapour.

Hydrogen sulphide (H2S)

Plants show wilting on exposure to this gas but the symptoms develop after about 48 hours. No injury occurs below the exposure of 40 ppm for 4 hours.

Carbon monoxide (CO)

Like ethylene this gas produces epinasty, chlorosis and abscission. However, concentration of over 1000 times that of ethylene is needed to produce same degree of damage. No injury to plants occurs below exposure of 100 ppm for 1 week.

Bromine (Br2) and Iodine (I2)

Studies show these gases are highly toxic to plants.HI and I2 are readily absorbed and accumulated by plants producing visible injury symptoms similar to those of SO2. Injury occurs at exposure of 0.1 ppm for 18 hours.

Common injury symptoms of bromine in angiosperms are necrosis of leaf margins, leaf tips and tendrils; brown discolouration and black spots later spreading to entire leaf. In conifers, yellow/white needle tips or red/brown discolouration later becoming grey/brown are common symptoms.

Hercury vapour (Hg)

Unlike other pollutants, flowers are more sensitive to Hg than leaves. Injury symptoms usually appear within 24 hours of Hg exposure but often go on increasing upto 5 days.

Common injury symptoms due to Hg-vapour pollution are abscission of oldest leaves, interveinal necrosis, chlorosis around veins, flower abscission, loss of petal colour, buds remaining closed and later becoming necrotic, blackening of stamens, pistils and peduncles.

Particulate pollutants

Different types of solid particulate materials are also important air pollutants. Each of these affects the plants in characteristic manner. Some common particulate air pollutants have been discussed below.

Cement-kiln dust

Cement factories are the chief source of cement dust pollution. The composition of such dust varies with the source. Main component of cement dust is CaO and varying amounts of K2O, Na2O and KCl and traces of Al, Fe, Mn, Mg, S and silica. Dust with more than 24% CaO is more injurious to plants. Fine particles cause more damage than larger particles. Cement-kiln dust is alkaline in natureand dissolves in atmospheric moisture forming a solution of pH 10-12.

In generals, plants having hairy surface of leaves trap more dust and are, therefore, damaged more than the plants with shiny leaf surface. The cement dust forms crusts on the surface of leaves, twigs and flowers. This inhibits gaseous exchange from the surfaces of plant parts. Such crust on the leaves also inhibits light penetration and consequently reduces photosynthesis. Such crusts are especially thicker in conditions of dew, mist or light rains. In dry conditions, dust blowing with wind is highly abrasive and damages the cuticle of leaves. Cuticle is also damaged due to alkalinity of cement dust. Due to damaged cuticle plants become more susceptible to infection by pathogens.

Lime and gypsum

Lime and gypsum processing industries and mining deposits are chief sources from where fine particles of these substances are blown away to great distances. Deposited on the soil from the air, these change the pH of the soil and thus affect the nutrient availability to plants. Such deposition usually causes appearance of various nutrient deficiency symptoms in the plants. Lime and gypsum are less adhering as compared to cement-kiln dust. However, these are also trapped and deposited on the surface of plant parts particularly the leaves with hairy surfaces and produce injury symptoms similar to cement dust. Lime and gypsum particles blowing with wind are also highly abrasive for cuticle.


Burning of fossil fuels, organic matter or natural forest fires produce huge quantities of fine carbon particles which form the soot pollution. Soot can be dispersed over a quite wide area and transported to great distances by blowing winds.

Soot deposited on the surface of leaves may be washed away by rains so its damage may be reduced. However, in bright sunlight and high temperature, the damage is increased.

Soot deposited on the surface of leaves inhibits light penetration, increased surface temperature due to absorption of heat and clogging of stomata. The result of these is reduced gaseous exchange, reduced photosynthesis and general weakening of the plant growth. Necrotic spots also develop in many species due to soot deposition.

Magnesium oxide

Magnesium roasters are the chief sources of such pollution. The magnesium oxide dust may be carried by winds and deposited even at a distance of 5 km from the source.

In the atmosphere, magnesium sulphate (MgSO4) combines with carbon dioxide and water to form Mg(CO3)2. Both these compounds are alkaline and slightly soluble in water. Deposited on the soil these compounds can soon increase the soil pH to levels injurious to plants. Deposition of these substances on the soil prevents germination of seedlings. The seedlings that are able to emerge usually have yellow/brown tips of leaves and their roots are stunted. In areas of heavy pollution, composition of the vegetation changes completely.


Boric acid and borax are common raw materials in many industries. Oven and refrigerator manufacturing industries are chief sources of boron pollution. Severe injury to plants is observed even at a distance of 200 meters from the source and mild injury may be observed upto 500 meters in all the directions from the source.

Impact of boron pollution is more severe on older leaves than on younger leaves. Boron is also accumulated in the leaves and produces injury symptoms quite similar to fluoride pollution.

Chlorides of sodium, potassium and calcium

Sodium and calcium chlorides are commonly used in colde countries on the roads during winters to melt ice and snow. Potash industry produces aerial emission of KCl and NaCl in ratio of 3:1. All such chlorides are carried away by winds and deposited on the soil and plants. Injury symptoms produced by these chlorides in plants are very similar to those produced by SO2 and fluoride pollution.

Sodium sulphate

Sodium sulphate dust can cause necrosis of leaves. The damage increases in moist condition.

Pesticides, insecticides and herbicides

A large variety of such chemicals are sprayed on the crops these days. These substances may drift with wind to nearby areas. Generally, these chemicals are deposited on the soil and form important soil pollutants. However, in frosty conditions when crops and other plants damaged by early frost are quite susceptible to foliar spray of these chemicals, these may also be injurious air pollutants. Injury symptoms vary with the plant species and the type of chemical. Generally, the symptoms are produced on foliage and are quite similar to those produced when these substances act as soil pollutants.

Many of the primary pollutants under specific environmental conditions may interact with each other and produce secondary environmental pollutants or certain complex environmental conditions that are injurious to plants. Such secondary pollutants and pollution conditions are discussed below.


In presence of strong sunlight and in hot weather a series of complex chemical reactions involving nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons may produce certain photo-oxidant chemicals. These chemicals do not have any specific anthropogenic source but are formed over wide areas in which suitable environmental conditions are prevailing. Two such photo-oxidants that can reach ambient concentrations toxic to plants are PAN (Peroxyacetylnitrate ) and ozone.

PAN (Peroxyacetylnitrate-CH3CO.O2.NO2)

Impact of this secondary pollutant is not affected by humidity. However, the impact decreases with lowering of temperature and increasing drought conditions. The impact also increases in the morning and in bright sunlight. Young plants and young rapidly expanding leaves are more sensitive to this pollutant. PAN interacts with SO2 and O3 in complex manner producing variable impact conditions.

The common visible symptoms of exposure to PAN are chlorosis and necrosis in leaves. It also interferes with photosynthesis, respiration and absorption and synthesis of carbohydrates and proteins. It inhibits photorespiration, NADP reduction, carbon dioxide fixation, cellulose synthesis and the enzymes associated with photosynthesis and respiration.

Ozone (O3)

The impact of ozone on plants increases with humidity and decreases with drought, darkness, low temperature, high soil salinity, deficiency of soil phosphorus and excess of soil sulphur. Middle aged leaves and young plants are more sensitive to ozone. This pollutant interacts with SO2, NO2, PAN and heavy metals in complex manner.

Common symptoms of ozone pollution are yellowing, flecking and blotching in leaves, premature senescence and early maturity. It interferes with pollen formation, pollination, pollen germination and growth of pollen tubes. Increase in the level of RNA, starch, polysaccharides and number of polysomes is observed in ozone pollution. Ozone stimulates respiration, inhibits oxidative phosphorylation and changes membrane permeability. In some species, it inhibits the synthesis of glucon and cellulose and reduces the level of reducing sugars, ascorbic acid and ATP while in other species the effect is opposite to it.

Secondary pollution conditions
Certain primary inorganic and organic pollutants in the atmosphere under certain specific environmental conditions, undergo a variety of complex photochemical and other chemical reactions. These reactions produce certain specific secondary atmospheric pollution conditions that also adversely affect plants. Important such secondary atmospheric pollution conditions are acid rains, photochemical smog, ozone depletion and greenhouse problem.

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